With his eyes narrowed in what he must think is a threatening manner and his face scrunched up in a supposedly menacing frown, Sammy Winchester is so cute she wants to wrap him up and put him in her pocket. Then he opens his mouth and says, "I want my dad," in what could pass for a five-year-old's version of a growl - no, she has to give him credit, that really was a growl, one a mop-topped kid shouldn't be able to summon - and glares at her, at Principal Brandon, and at the door, like he expects his father to materialize as soon as the wish has left his mouth. She just wants to pinch him and feed him cookies.
His legs dangle high above the linoleum floor, but she gets the feeling he'd be tapping his foot impatiently if he could. Most kids - bigger kids - are scared at being summoned to the principal's office after school, but Sammy just looks uncharacteristically defiant, like he's not the same boy who claps with such gusto when they sing "Bingo" or grins when he gets to be classroom monitor. It tugs at her heart, the difference she sees in him, and she squats down beside him. "Sammy, what happened? You usually like Music Time."
He cuts his eyes sideways at her, and stays facing the door. And that's just weird, him ignoring her like that, when he usually hangs on her every word. "Dad!" he says, and his tone isn't relieved, or anxious, or anything else normal. It's conspiratorial, and she feels silly even thinking it, because if there was ever a kid who wore his heart on his sleeve and was constitutionally incapable of keeping a secret, it's Sammy.
"Hey, sport," says Sammy's dad, who's big and bearded and just . . . gorgeous. Mr. Winchester looks Sammy over for a moment, then turns to them. "I'd like a minute alone with my son." It's not a request.
Principal Brandon turns to her and she shrugs, so father and son go out in the hallway for their conversation. She's got exactly no shame, and knows George Brandon's got even less, so they don't even bother making excuses to each other before they're pressed up against the door, trying desperately to eavesdrop.
"Where's Dean?" is the first thing out of Mr. Winchester's mouth.
"In the big kids' room," Sammy answers. "They said they couldn't call him, only you."
"Okay, and why'd they have to call me?" He sounds a little surprised but not angry or worried.
"Miss Marissa wanted us to tell lies," Sammy says, sounding honestly aggrieved, and George gives her a look that means she needs to start explaining right now.
"I have no idea!" she whispers frantically. "We sang 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat' and 'Camptown Ladies' and then I taught them a new song, really cute. It's called 'Monsters in the Mud.'"
She can hear Sammy singing the incriminating song for his father, forgetting to be quiet, and his little piping soprano comes through clearly. She's impressed that he's got the thing memorized. "Big yellow teeth and a forty-foot tongue/ Hoppin' all around singing dum-dee-dum-dum/ Dum, dum, dum, dum-dee-dee-dee! Dum, dum, dum, dum-dee-dee-dee!"
She and George exchange bewildered looks when Sammy finishes and his father takes a deep, serious breath and says, "I'll take care of this." He's quick enough that he nearly catches them eavesdropping, and when he comes in he looks each of them in the eye and shakes his head like he's completely disappointed in them. She feels six years old again and an apology springs to her lips before she's even figured out what she needs to apologize for.
George's back stiffens and he hurries to set the tone for the meeting. "Mr. Winchester, has Sammy explained why he disrupted this afternoon's class so . . . dramatically?"
Mr. Winchester's eyes narrow just like Sammy's did, and she finds herself believing in this implicit threat a lot more. "Sammy got spooked. He's an imaginative kid." There's a little pause and she finds herself believing him, his unapologetic air. "Sometimes he has nightmares . . . about monsters. That song just gave him fodder for another couple months, easy." He's not looking at George now, but at her, and it's taking all of her willpower to keep eye contact with him.
She swallows hard. "Mr. Winchester, I apologize. Sammy's never been anything but helpful before and I should have realized he wasn't trying to make trouble." There are born troublemakers out there, but Sammy isn't one of them; his screams had been real. "If you'd bring him back in, I could apologize to him personally."
Mr. Winchester's stone-dark eyes haven't softened a bit. "Don't bother," he says. "Sammy won't be coming here anymore. We're going to be moving over the weekend."
There's no point protesting; she can see that the plans are already in place and he'd take any questioning as an insult.
He leaves and she can hear him say, "C'mon, Sammy, let's go get Dean from the big kids' room."
Her heart hurts at the thought of never seeing Sammy's bright little face again. She walks back to her classroom and straightens it up automatically. Halfway down in the pile of drawings on her desk is one by Sammy, capital letters spelling out "my class" wandering tipsily along the top of the page, above a long row of smiling brown and pink faces.