I'd posted signs on the inside doors of the sound stages reading, "CLOTHING OF SOME FORM MUST BE WORN OUTSIDE. THIS MEANS YOU!" The performers took it to heart, and would at least pull on underwear before heading down for a smoke or a soda.
There was a simple solution to what to do with Jane all day: I sent her cruising. After breakfast on Wednesday I handed her a street map and a hundred dollars and told her to go exploring. Learn the area. Get used to the car. Familiarize yourself with where you live. Have fun. Be back by seven.
On Thursday a FedEx package showed up, addressed to me. Ripping it open, I found it contained all the documents we had requested from Jane's parents. Hooray, they'd come through for us. Jane was an emancipated minor, and had all her records from her old high school. Her life could progress.
On Friday Jane and I went to Carlsbad High School to enroll her. Bekka was working, and couldn't join us. We went through the office door, marched up to the counter, and waited to be noticed. Some stoner kid was sitting on a bench off to one side.
"Been waiting long?" I asked him.
"Yeah," came the sullen reply. Taking a second look, he asked, "Who are you guys?"
I said, "We're here to get my friend here enrolled."
The stoner kid said, "Man, fuck this place," and turned his head to cut off any more conversation. I shrugged at Jane and we continued our vigil.
A woman finally breezed by and asked if we needed some help. She looked disturbed by our appearance, but we couldn't do anything about that.
"Yes, I need to speak with Herschel Gray," I told her.
"What is it regarding?" I was asked icily.
"Enrollment of a new student. We spoke on Monday, I'm sure he'll remember us."
The woman turned and walked into the warren of cubicles. I stuck my tongue out at her as she departed, prompting giggles from Jane. The woman returned presently, trailing Mr. Gray behind her.
Seeing us, he looked surprised. "Ah yes, Mr., uh, Schneider was it? And you are Jane.... Where is the girl who was with you?"
"She's at work right now," I said.
"So how may I help you?" Gray asked.
"We have all the needed paperwork now, and the enrollment form is all filled out. What's the next step?"
Gray looked shocked. "May I see everything?" he asked. I handed it over.
He spent plenty of time studying the emancipation, reading it over closely. Then he went through the paperwork from Gainesville High, carefully placing each sheet on top of the other. He cleared his throat and said, "Why don't you two come back to my office?"
We followed him through the warren to his cubicle. We sat while he dug through a file cabinet looking for god knows what. He retrieved some papers and sat down at his desk.
"Well, I'm happy to say that you are conditionally a student at Carlsbad High School," he announced. Jane grinned and hugged me.
"Conditionally?" I asked.
"We still need to verify the school transcripts in Florida. That, and there are a couple more forms for you to fill out, plus placement in classes. However, there's no reason to not have you here on Monday morning for classes. If you fill out this and this, and allow me to make copies of the emancipation paperwork, we can move forward. Please excuse me." He departed to go use the copier.
Jane quickly filled in the additional enrollment forms, one of which stated that the new student was an emancipated minor and was responsible for herself. Gray came back with the papers and gave them back. I shoved them back into the FedEx envelope.
Gray said, "Here, let me introduce you to your new guidance counselor. His name is Mr. Tripp, please come this way."
He led us to another grouping of cubicles. In one we shook hands with a soppy looking bastard whose dress and decor pointed to his true passion: golf. Gray told him, "Mr. Tripp, this is, ah, Jane Osborne. She is a brand new eleventh grade student here. And this is her companion, Mr. Schneider." He used the word companion in the same tone one usually uses the word pimp. I decided to ignore it for now.
"So, you're brand new to this school," said Tripp. "Where are you transferring here from?"
"Um, Gainesville High in Gainesville, Florida," said Jane.
"Your family has relocated here?" Tripp asked.
"No, just me."
Tripp looked confused. "I don't understand."
Jane said, "My parents kicked me out of the house. I traveled out here and hooked up with my friends Lenny and Bekka. They're letting me stay with them at their place in La Costa. Part of the deal in living with them is that I go to school, so here I am. Are you the one who assigns lockers?"
He sat there and processed what Jane had told him, and said, "You traveled out here alone? You're a runaway?"
"Throwaway, actually," I said. "Her parents gave her the boot. They told me as much when I spoke with them."
Jane said, "And as of Monday, I'm a legally emancipated minor. It's been pointed out to me that most kids use their emancipation to get out of school, while I'm using mine to get in. But no one speaks for me, legally, I'm an adult."
Tripp goggled at us. "This is a most unusual circumstance. How do you two know each other?"
I said, "We met a couple years ago in Fort Lauderdale, while my wife Bekka and I were on our honeymoon. We made friends and continued on a correspondence."
"How old are you?"
"I'm twenty-two, Bekka is twenty-eight."
Tripp stared at me. "And Jane here is, what, sixteen?"
"Correct," Jane said. "Look, um, are you the one who helps me get placed in my classes? My goal is to be in my classrooms on Monday."
This statement seemed to jar Tripp out of his stupor. He said, "Of course, your classes. We'll get you in your required courses, and see about what electives you would like to take."
"That's easy. Put me in drama and metal shop. If metal shop is full, I'll take ceramics. And I'd like to see about becoming part of the girl's varsity volleyball team."
In a we're-all-friends-here, hyuck-hyuck way Tripp exclaimed, "Goodness! You seem to have thought this through!"
Jane said, "Ever ridden Greyhound across Texas? There's not much to do but think. On my way out here, I thought about all the things I'd rather be doing. So yes, I gave it a lot of thought."
Tripp cleared his throat and said, "Yes.... Well, we can go see Mrs. Warner about getting you placed in classes. Shall we?"
I said, "We shall. C'mon, pet," and ushered Jane out of the cubicle. Tripp stopped us in the hallway.
"I must ask. What is the nature of your relationship?"
Jane and I looked at each other. "We're friends," I said.
"Just friends? That's all?"
Jane said in a low tone, "I see what you're getting at, and no. Lenny and I are simply friends. Lenny is married. I would never fuck a married man, I think that's a rotten thing to do. Am I clear?"
"Quite," said Tripp in a frosty tone. He led us down to Mrs. Warner's office where Jane was placed in Geometry in period one, Intermediate English in period two, Science in period three, Drama in period four, Metal Working in period five, and P.E. in period six. We then left the building in the company of Tripp to locate Jane's assigned locker. I opened the door and kicked out all the trash, then asked him if it were possible to buy a padlock on campus.
"Yes it is. Please come this way." We went to a different building and in a door marked SUPPLIES. It was essentially a tiny stationary store, selling paper and pens and erasers and the other random crap sudents need. A kid with acne that would alarm the CDC sold us a combination lock for three bucks. We went and installed it, Jane tucking the combination in her chain wallet.
A bell began to ring. Tripp looked up and said, "It's lunchtime. Would you care to try our cafeteria? It's really quite good."
Jane and I looked at each other and shrugged. "What the hell, why not," Jane said. "My usual lunch is two Snickers bars and a can of Slimfast, but I'll try the food here."
We followed the crowd to the cafeteria, where we got in line. We received trays which were filled with Salisbury steak, instant mashed potatoes, canned green beans, and half a pear. Jane and I stared at our trays, then walked to the back of the line and began offering them to those waiting. We were looked upon with suspicion, but finally managed to unload them.
"God damn if you're not just either bringing a lunch with you or bringing cash so you can hit a drive thru," I told Jane. "We need to ask if they have an open campus or not."
"No time like the present," Jane said. "We'll get that answered, then can we go and get some decent lunch?"
"Absolutely. Let's find the office."
We went back through the door of our original ingress, where the same stoner was now lying on the bench, sneering at the acoustic tiles. Overwhelmed by curiosity, I asked him why he was there.
"I got caught making a bong in wood shop, and now they're trying to decide what to do about me. It's bullshit. Why are you here?"
"Getting my friend here enrolled. Jane, meet a random guy who makes bongs. Guy who makes bongs, meet Jane."
"How y'all doin'?" asked Jane in a Southern belle twang.
The stoner asked, "So, what, are you two a couple or something?"
I said, "Your Mr. Tripp insinuated as much, but no, we're just friends. She's sixteen, I'm twenty-two. Being jailed on a statutory rape charge doesn't sound like fun."
He asked of Jane, "Are you from the South?" A sharp one, this boy.
Jane said, "Florida. I've been here just one week."
"Is your dad in the military?"
"No, and I moved here by myself. My family is still in Florida."
This blew the stoner's mind. "Whoa, you're a runaway?"
"Sort of," Jane said demurely.
"Why are you trying to get into school? They can't touch you now."
"It's part of the deal. Right now I'm living in a big mansion in La Costa. As long as I go to school and get acceptable grades, I can continue to live there. They've provided me with my own room, food in the fridge, and a 1971 hot rod Cutlass to drive. Oh, and I smoke out of a very nice two foot glass bong. My life is too good to not go to school."
We left him to his amazement and pushed our way back into the warren, headed for Mr. Tripp's cubicle. We found it occupied, so we knocked on the frame and walked in.
"Did you enjoy your lunch?" Tripp asked.
"I'm allergic to Salisbury steak," I told him.
"Canned green beans make me go all red and puffy," added Jane.
"We had a couple questions for you. First, is this an open campus, and second, where do we get a parking permit?"
Tripp said, "The ability to leave at lunchtime is left to the parent's discretion. They must give the okay for a student to leave. So far as a parking permit goes, just go back to the front counter and talk to Mrs. Finch. Anything else?"
I smiled. "Yeah, is there a form to fill out to have permission to leave campus?"
"Yes there is."
"Can we have one? We can take care of this right now."
Tripp looked confused. "I thought her parents were in Florida."
Jane said, "Yes, but I'm legally emancipated. It's situations such as this why the legal construct exists. I fill out the release form and sign my own name."
I added, "She can also work full time, apply for loans, rent or purchase property, and enter into legal contracts. While being emancipated does not mean she's allowed to drink, smoke, or join the military, it clears the path for her to function as an adult in this world. It's how she was able to enroll in school here, after all."
Tripp went from confused to stunned. "So.... You have no legal guardian."
"Nope," said Jane. "I am legally independent."
"So can we get that form?" I asked.
With a defeated tone, Tripp said, "Yes. Please wait up at the counter."
Walking back to the front, Jane said, "He doesn't seem to know what to make of us."
"It's mostly you. He's got a sixteen year old punk rock girl with no parents or legal guardian that is legally independent. He has no idea how to handle you. He can't treat you like a kid. As far as I go, I think he thinks I'm your pimp. And to hell with him."
"I got the impression he thought we were lovers."
"Maybe he thought I was fucking you. No, he sees something sinister in me."
"I dunno, if he's going to put us in a box, being lovers sounds okay. And who's to say it's not true?" Jane gave me a wink and ran her hand down my ass.
"You have to ask permission from Bekka," I said. "Don't be surprised if you get two black eyes as a response. And even if she said yes, you'd still have to convince me. How are you gonna sell me on the idea of committing statutory rape just so I can fuck someone I'm friends with? Are you always this randy, or has it been a long time since you had a piece?"
"I'm always this randy," she said. "The worst part is I want you really bad, but I won't have you because you're married. I'd never make someone cheat. But I still want you."
I said, "Lord girl, you've gotta find a boyfriend as soon as you start classes. Use your feminine wiles to nail one of the computer club geeks. You know he'll be appreciative."
A voice behind us said, "You can nail me." We'd forgotten about the stoner on the bench.
Jane went over to him and said, "Sorry, but no. Stoner boys lack focus. I demand focus from who I fuck."
"Whatever." He went back to glowering at the wall.
Mr. Tripp came up to the counter with Mrs. Finch in tow. He placed the form in front of us and said, "Just fill this out, I guess. You have a car?"
"I just bought one for her a couple days ago. It's a '71 Cutlass, a real sling shot. It will serve its purpose well for her."
Mrs. Finch asked, "Is the car here?"
Jane replied, "Yes it is. It's parked in the visitor lot right now. Do you need to see it?"
"Yes I do, to get the license plate and put in your parking pass sticker. Why are you parked in the visitor lot?"
"Because when I arrived today, I wasn't a student, I was just visiting. My status has changed over the last couple hours. Don't worry, I'll park in the normal lot from now on."
We went out to the parking lot and the Cutlass. Mrs. Finch wrote down the plate number and affixed a sticker in one corner of the windshield. While she did this, a voice said, "Whoa." We turned to see the itinerant stoner ogling the car. He grinned and gave a thumbs up.
Mrs. Finch scolded at him, "Stanley, you have no business out here. Go and wait in the office."
"I've been waiting in the office!" he cried. "I already missed lunch. I wish you guys would just put me in detention so I could go back to class."
The four of us marched back into the office. Jane completed and signed the form allowing her to leave campus at lunchtime, then trotted through the warren to give it back to Mr. Tripp. When she came back she had a highly amused look on her face. "Can we get some lunch now?" she asked.
"Sure. What's so funny?"
"My new guidance counselor is freaked out. You buying that car for me to drive has him all stunned and confused. He can't figure us out."
"That's fine with me. He's the last person I want to explain my job, or Bekka's, to. He'd probably call Child Protective Services on us."
"You guys have been very protective of me so far. More than I want. Can't I please watch you guys film sometime?"
"Yeah, when you're eighteen, and not before. I'm hoping the move will get your mind off the idea of watching porn being made. You won't be living around it."
"Maybe, maybe not. What shall we have for lunch?"
"Mexican sound okay?"