Authors note: Hi everyone. I have been a busy bee writing the next chapter and now here it is so enjoy!
October 1992 New York
Mike pulled up outside the house he shared with Sophia and Charlie earlier than he intended to be home. Sophia had left a message for him to come home as soon as he could as they needed to talk. Before he got out he checked his reflection in the mirror and had to cringe. Time had caused him to change in ways he hated one way in particular – he now had glasses. He only got them a few weeks before and still getting used to them but he thought they made him look older than he was. His pale blue eyes looked bigger when he wore them. He used to have his dirty blonde hair shoulder length or longer that he kept tied back but in a way of raising money for charity he volunteered to have his hair cut short. This happened a few weeks before he got his glasses. So now the combination of his short blonde hair and the glasses made him look like a totally different person. If he wore a business suit he could fit in with all those other business suit types that worked all day in an office sat in front of a computer. That would be a way of life that would destroy him. He was a free spirit which he hoped Charlie would be too one day. He marvelled at how Sophia could sit in front of a computer all day writing. They were polar opposites in a why but yet they balanced each other out. He did want to one day own his own bar where various musicians could perform. This would mean that one day he would have to go to a bank in a business suit and request a loan. Maybe this new look would help him get there – only when he got used to it at least. One thing he was certain of was that the two most important people in his life, his two girls loved him for who he was regardless of how he looked.
When he got out of the car he looked up to see Charlie sat at her window seat watching him. It was only lunchtime and he had expected her to be in school. She gave a small wave so he smiled and waved back.
'I'm back' he said loudly as he entered the house. He had expected Charlie to rush downstairs as quickly as she could and greet him with a big hug as she always did but not today.
'I'm in the kitchen' Sophia called back and he made his way through the ground floor to the kitchen.
'I got your message, what happened? Why is Charlie home?' he asked. Sophia, who was washing up, turned to face him and dried her hands on a tea towel.
'Looks like we have to find a new school for Charlie' Sophia replied in hushed tones in case Charlie was listening.
'She is refusing to go back' Mike raised an eyebrow.
'She's six years old Sophia. Why is she refusing? Did one on the kids tease her?'
'Not quite. It seems that her teacher Mr Franklin lost his temper whilst trying to get Charlie to understand some simple maths. Charlie couldn't do it and when she asked him if she was stupid he said yes' Mike's eyes widened and his mouth fell open.
'He said that Charlie was stupid?' he clarified and Sophia could hear the rage boiling up in him with each word.
'Off the cuff, yes and she has taken it to heart. He did it in front of the class as well so some of the kids laughed at her'
'OFF THE CUFF?!' Mike yelled. Instantly Sophia tried to get him to lower his voice but he didn't pay attention to her flapping her arms about as a signal to shut up. 'Off the cuff?! There is no such thing! Give me the phone number for the school and I'll give the headmaster and Mr Franklin some "off the cuff" phrases of my own!' Mike ranted and grabbed the phone that sat on the kitchen counter.
'No need, I've scheduled a meeting with the headmaster and Mr Franklin for tomorrow morning. Stephanie next door said she will look after Charlie whilst we are there. It's in the morning so you can come too since you won't be working' Sophia explained. Mike put the phone back down.
'That's good that gives me a whole day to think of things to say to the scumbag. How dare he say that?' Mike let out a frustrated sigh and noticed that Sophia was biting her nails.
'Ok what is it?' Mike asked.
'You're biting your nails. You only bite your nails when you don't want to discuss something'. Sophia didn't reply. 'Come on; say what you need to say'. It was Sophia's turn to let out a sigh.
'Ok, I hate to breach the subject but maybe we need to think about other school options' Mike knew where she was going with this and grew angry again.
'I'm not putting my child in a special school for the disabled just because she is having some trouble' he said loudly.
'Ssshhh! She'll hear you' Sophia said sternly and Mike finally gave in and spoke quietly.
'Ok we both know she has development issues as well as her disability with her leg but that doesn't mean she is different or should be made to feel different' he explained.
'I know that but if she is having trouble keeping up with her peers shouldn't we be doing something to help her? I'm not saying she should be put in a school that is only for disabled children, what I'm saying is maybe put her in a school where they have staff who can help those with development issues or at least have a teaching assistant who can sit with her throughout class and explain things to her without disrupting the other children. That way she can get the support she needs. What will it mean for her future if we don't do something now? Making her go back to that school and carry on as if nothing happened could do her more harm than good. You know how shy she is and when she feels different or the odd one out she gets worse. She doesn't run around with the other kids and such since she feels awkward with her leg so she sits alone in the playground. The kids already make her feel odd due to her leg and now they are laughing at her for being looked down on by the teacher – think how this all seems to her Mike. It only makes things worse and you know it' Mike fell silent and looked defeated.
'Ok, let's take this one step at a time. We'll talk to the school and see what can be done. We can get their opinion and take it from there. If we aren't happy we'll see about other schools'.
'Thank you' Sophia said and hugged him.
'I'm not saying I like it but if it is the only choice we have then so be it'.
As they embraced they heard Charlie tapping away at the keys on the piano in the music room above them. She had begun to learn to play a couple of weeks before, Mike being her teacher as he had been for all the other instruments she played. So far she knew the notes, most of the cords and could play three blind mice. Mike was a good teacher and Charlie was able to learn quickly since the two shared a passion for music. Mike knew how her brain worked and retained things so he could teach her easily. Today however her playing was like when she first started to learn – clumpy and a random set of tuneless notes.
'She hasn't spoken to me since I picked her up from school. I think she wants to talk to you' Sophia explained. Mike kissed her softly before heading up to see his little girl.
He made his way to the music room and stopped at the doorway. Charlie was sat at the piano which was at the back of the room directly opposite the door. Even with her back to him he could tell she was upset. Her shoulders were hunched which made her smaller. And even with her long hair that fell to the middle of her back being down he could tell her head was down in defeat.
'Now what has got my Charlie Rose so upset?' he asked and Charlie stopped playing. She turned on her seat and he could see she was crying. 'Hey, what's all this about then?' he came and sat by her and she instantly threw her arms around his waist and sobbed. He held her close softly stroking and kissing her hair.
'Everyone is teasing me because I'm so stupid. I don't want to go back there daddy, please don't make me' she cried into his chest.
'Charlie, look at me' he commanded and she did as she was told. 'Your mum and I aren't going to make you go back there if we don't want you too'
'What about what I want? I hate it there' she asked sternly. That was one thing he had to admire about Charlie. Even though she was shy, when she was around those she knew and trust she was headstrong and gave her opinion despite how young she was. She had her mother's looks and sensitivity but had inherited his temper, stubbornness and being headstrong.
'Charlie, I don't think you hate learning, you just hate the way in which you are taught. Am I right?' Charlie nodded.
'And the other kids pick on me because I'm stupid and slow'.
'You are NOT stupid or slow Charlie. Never believe that'.
'How can I not believe it if people say it to me all the time?' she asked and began to cry again. Mike thought for a moment then something came to his mind.
'Do you remember your 5th birthday and how Uncle Nick and Auntie Anna got you a scooter?' Charlie nodded as she dried her cheeks with her hands.
'My pink one' she said.
'That's right. Well when you got it you were so excited, you rushed out to use it. When you tried though you fell over and found you couldn't use it because of your leg. You kept on losing your balance'.
Charlie looked down at her deformed left leg. She had suffered nerve damage due to her premature birth which meant her lower left leg was turned inward at an awkward angle. She had always had balance problems because of it which always embarrassed her. She hated how she could be stood and all of a sudden fall over for no reason. She ran her hand over her left knee and the scar on it.
'I cut my leg and still have the scar' she said.
'That's right and you gave up. But then we went to the park and you saw a boy on a skateboard. You couldn't take your eyes of him doing those jumps and such. You turned to me and said "I want to do that". Do you remember what I said to you?' Charlie nodded.
'A skateboard is a scooter without the handles'.
'That's right and you can't use a skateboard correctly until you learn to balance on a scooter. You have to get back up again if you fall down. If you want to skateboard that badly then you have to practice just like with your instruments – you can't expect to be an expert overnight. So that is what you did. You practiced and practiced over and over again until finally you were able to use your scooter properly. You got your bad leg to be the one to support your weight and since then your balance has been so much better. Now you can use a skateboard like everyone else'.
'So you think I need to practice more with school?' she asked confused.
'Yes and no. You need to practice more at your studies to keep up with anyone but we might be able to find new ways for you to learn like a teaching assistant to sit with you in class who can help you learn your studies in new ways. Or we could even put you in a new school. What do you think to that?'
'What will the other kids think?' she asked with a mutter.
'It doesn't matter what other people think it is about what you think. You control your destiny Charlie and if they say you can't do it then prove them wrong. They said you couldn't ride a scooter but you did and upgraded it to a skateboard. You never thought you could understand how to play a cup when I first began to teach you instruments and now how many instruments can you play?'
'Cups, drums, guitar, recorder, ocarina, and now learning the piano' she said counting off her fingers. She couldn't help remembering how he gave her a cup as an instrument and she didn't understand but she learnt that any object can make music.
'They all teased you about playing music but how many instruments can they play?'
'None' she replied with a soft smile.
'You see? Just because they tease you that doesn't mean they are bigger, smarter or better than you. Usually those who tease others are people who have their own flaws that they don't like to see in themselves so they point it out in other people' Mike explained hoping the message would get through to her.
'I still have to learn how to get maths to stick in my head somehow'. Mike was about to reply when his eyes fell on the keys of the piano. He had taped small pieces of paper to each key where her fingers would make contact, the musical note of the key written on each piece of paper.
'Charlie, how many white keys are there on a piano?'
'Fifty two' she replied instantly.
'And black keys?'
'Thirty six which means there is a total of eighty eight keys' she replied quickly making Mike smile. She was having trouble doing simple maths like two plus two yet she could tell you how many keys a piano had.
'You remembered from the song I taught you'
'Well yeah, I always remember songs and music notes' she replied and that was the moment the idea came to mind.
'Lunch is ready' Sophia called up the stairs.
'Charlie, go down to your mum and ask her to bring up the scissors, tape and pen in the kitchen cabinet since you are too young to carry the scissors. Then have your lunch and come back up when you are done and bring your maths book with you'.
Charlie did as she was told and a little while later Sophia came up with what he asked for.
'So how did it go?' she asked.
'Ok I think but I have an idea as to how we can help her with maths work'.
'Which is?' she asked
'Music' he replied with a smile and she smiled back.
'Your answer for everything'. Charlie ate her lunch slowly not wanting to have to go do her maths homework anytime soon. Every time she thought of it Mr. Franklin popped into her head being horrible to her and the kids laughing. She heard her dad playing various notes every now and then which distracted her.
'What is he doing upstairs mummy?' she asked.
'I don't know – why don't you go find out?' she suggested. Charlie made her way up the stairs, maths book in hand to find Mike sat in the music room and he had put the lid down on the piano keys.
'Hey Rosebud, are you ready to do some maths?'
'I think so' she replied and the two sat together at the piano. When she sat down he noticed a small plastic guitar clamped in her hand and knew exactly what it was – the first toy she ever got. She carried it like a safety blanket when she was stressed or upset but knowing it gave her comfort he didn't mention it.
'Now while you were eating I have done something to the piano. Open it up and take a look'. She did as she was told and was surprised to find that the keys now not only had a piece of paper with a musical note on them, they each now had a number also above the musical note. The white keys were numbered one to fifty six whilst the black notes were numbered fifty seven to eighty eight.
'Since you said you always remember songs and musical notes, why don't we use them to learn maths? What were you learning at school?'
'Addition' she replied.
'Ok then, so with addition we are combining two or more numbers together to get a number. But for us we are going to combine numbers and musical notes. Now let's look at your book'. Charlie handed it over and Mike looked over it. 'Ok then, let's start with this one. What is three plus two?' Charlie shrugged.
'I don't know'.
'Ok then let's figure it out. Where is our first number which is the number three? Can you see it?' Charlie found it and pressed the C key that represented the number three. 'Now this is our starting point. So all we have do is go down the line of keys adding on the number we have been told to add to the number three'.
'Ok then, one' she tapped the D key that represented the number four. 'Two' she said tapping the E note that represented the number five. 'Five daddy! It's five!' she said proudly.
'Well done kiddo! Come on let's write it down in your maths book' she quickly scribbled down the number in the gap on the page she had to write in. 'Now the next one is three plus four. Now we know what three plus two is don't we?' Charlie nodded. 'Well two is the half way point to four. So if we start off at the number five where we were before we just have to add two more to that. So what is five plus two?' Charlie instantly started to play the notes starting at five.
'One' she tapped the F key that represented the number six. 'Two' she said tapping the G key that represented the number seven. 'Seven daddy! It's seven!' again she said proudly.
'That's fantastic, high five' she gave him a high five with a giggle. Then she noticed where her fingers were.
'Daddy look – three is key C, five is key E and seven is key G. That's a chord – C major!'
'Well spotted! So remember' he began to play notes and sung: 'Next time you need two or four plus three, don't forget that major C'.
'You're funny' she said with a giggle
'Yeah but you like me don't you?' Mike asked and she nodded before writing down the number seven in her book. Mike glanced at the doorway to see Sophia beaming at the two. Mike gave her a wink and Charlie saw her.
'Mummy did you know that three plus two is five and three plus four is seven because I do?'
'Yes I did and I heard you playing. You are doing so well, well done'.
'Can we do the next one together?' Charlie asked Sophia.
'Yeah why not? Move over daddy I'll show you how it is done!'
Charlie's eyes shot open. It had been a long time since she dreamt about her childhood in New York let alone that particular day when she learnt maths via music. She thought about her dad a lot but he only entered her dreams around her birthdays. She glanced at the clock at her bedside – it was two thirty in the morning. Only two days until her fifteenth birthday. She rolled on her side to face her bedside table on which sat a framed photo of her and her dad from when she was about six. It was a picture taken in central park that her mum Sophia had taken. Mike was lying on his back on the grass, his glasses a bit askew and he was laughing hysterically. Charlie, her long hair down was sat on top of him laughing and tickling him. It was one of her favourite pictures of the two of them together so it sat on her bedside where she could always look at it. Propped up against it was the small plastic guitar that she always carried with her. For a moment she looked at the photo before kissing her fingers and resting it on the frame. 'Love you daddy' she said, closed her eyes and went back to sleep.