A photo of a green door with a sign reading "principal"

In the principal’s office.

Principal Collins: Your mother is on her way for the second time in one week. What’s the matter, Mac? Is everything OK at home? Are you having problems in your classes?  I know kids can be mean at times, but they are all good kids once you get to know them. You’re an “A” student and active in all sports. Maybe your mother can help me understand what’s going on in that head of yours. 

Mac watches his mother, Dr. Johnson, enter the principal’s office. She stands 5’11” tall, a light-skinned, thick woman sporting a pearl-white lab coat with a name tag that reads “Dr. Khadijah Johnson.” She’s a doctor at a local veterinary hospital where she spends a lot of time caring for abandoned, stray, and wounded animals.

Principal Collins: How are you? I’m sorry to interrupt another day of work, but your son here has gotten into a fight for the second time this week. 

Mrs. Johnson: Another fight, Mac?! What’s the matter with you? 

Principal Collins: I asked your son if everything is OK at home. 

Mrs. Johnson: EXCUSE ME? 

Principal Collins: Yes. I also asked him if he is getting along with the other students. I’m aware that he’s new here at Frederick Moore High. 

Mrs. Johnson: Thanks for asking, but home is fine, if you must know. 

Principal Collins: Well, Dr. Johnson, help me understand why Mac is so violent and always getting into one altercation or another. 

Mrs. Johnson: Mac, wait outside while I finish talking with Ms. Collins. 

Mac: Yes, Ma. 

Mrs. Johnson: Ms. Collins, I’m not making any excuses for how Mac has been acting. I work long hours and he spends a lot of time alone at home. I wanted to send him to an all-boys private school, but he insisted on enrolling in Frederick Moore, what he says is a “normal” school. Please give it some time. He just needs to find some good friends. 

Principal Collins: I understand that you and your husband work hard to provide a good living for your son. I know that you love and care for his well-being. But can you see that being alone more often than not is taking a toll on your son? He’s been enrolled here for six months and still hasn’t made any friends. 

Mrs. Johnson: I’ll let his father talk to him. Thank you, Ms. Collins. 

Principal Collins: You’re so welcome, Dr. Johnson. If there’s anything more I can help you with, I’m just a phone call away. 

Mrs. Johnson: No, but thank you. My husband and I can handle it just fine. 

Meanwhile, in the lobby of the principal’s office: love at first sight. Mac heads out to the waiting area. As he prepares to sit, he notices a beautiful, dark-skinned girl with long jet-black hair, enchanting eyes and full lips. Her head is leaning on the wall where she sits. Mac is swooning. His first thought is, “She doesn’t look like the normal Frederick Moore student.”

Mac: Hey! [With a highly confident tone of voice]. What’s wrong? I always see you here. … Sorry, my name is Mac Johnson. 

Jenny: You always see me here? Only as much as you always hear yourself! I don’t feel good. My mom is on her way to take me home. I have a very bad headache and the nurse say I have a fever.  

Hey, you’re pretty popular with our team, the Silverbacks, aren’t you? I’ve seen you play a few times when my mom is late picking me up. My name is Jenny Middleton. I’ve been going to school here for a little over a year. 

Mac: That’s twice as long as me. 

Jenny: So, why you always at the principal’s office if you just got here? 

Mac: Haters. Frederick Moore has a lot of haters. 

Jenny: Tell me about it. I’m a little different because I wasn’t born in America. And everyone here likes to remind me of that. 

Mac: Where you from? 

Jenny: I was born in Ethiopia but raised in Minnesota. Then me and my mother moved here to Washington, D.C., maybe six years ago. 

Mac: I’m a Washingtonian, born and raised in that city life. First time going to this school though. Mom takes care of animals instead of me and Dad is the local dentist. We live in the suburbs. 

Jenny: Well, I live in one of the roughest, craziest parts of the city, where I hear and see things I don’t want to see. Where I live, it smells bad and there’s trash all over the streets. Dealers plague my neighborhood and prostitutes hang out there all night. 

Mac: Wow. Well I’m the only child in my house. What about you? 

Jenny: Just me an’ my mom. 

Mac: Well then we do have something in common, we are both spoiled. That’s what people say when you are the only child in your family, right? 

Jenny: I am not spoiled. I am poor, living in the ghetto. 

Mac: Well, I’m home alone a lot, so my parents buy me video games and such to keep me busy. 

Jenny: Not me. Look, what did you say your name was again? 

Mac: You have a very short memory. Mac Johnson. 

Jenny: Well, Mac Johnson, I am tired and sleepy. So, good chat, but I am going back to sleep.  

Jenny leans her head on the wall and closes her eyes. Mac’s mom soon walks out of the principal’s office with that look that lets Mac know instantly that he is in trouble.

Mrs. Johnson: Mac, let’s go. You know your father’s going to be very upset with you. I don’t know what you be thinking about most of the time. 

Jenny, with her eyes closed, listens to Mac get up and leave. She peeks out of one eye and sees a mug on his face that would scare a lion!

Mac’s father, Dr. Nicklis Johnson, is a very well known dentist. He owns his own practice, which makes Mac’s family financially stable. Mac wants for nothing, though he sometimes prays for a little brother or sister to have someone to care for. He spends a lot of time alone and feels unloved and unwanted. That’s why he acts out and cries for attention. Mr. Johnson is strict when Mac gets in trouble in school. It’s a long ride home, anticipating what his father will say.

Mrs. Johnson: So, what’s the problem, lil’ boy? You know your father is going to be very upset. 

Mac: Mom— 

Mrs. Johnson: (Interjecting) I give you everything you ask for. And in return, another problem at school. Your father is gonna want to put you in the Quiet Room. Is that what you want, son? 

Mac: But Mom… it wasn’t my fault. 

Mrs. Johnson: It’s never your fault! Whose fault was it this time, Mac? 

Mac goes into mute mode for a second, feeling like his mother wouldn’t understand.

Mac: Mom, it’s like the kids hate me. I stay to myself and that don’t work. Like, this time, two dudes bumped me at the same time and all my books and paper and everything went flying. So I beat ‘em up. Last month, someone broke into my locker. The week after that, I sat my lunch tray on the table to go get me some juice and, when I came back, my burger was gone. The week after that, I turn my head to say “Hi” to someone that I think is cool and someone else spat in my cereal. 

Mrs. Johnson: What?! Why didn’t you tell me all of that before?  

Mac: I don’t know. Figured I had it under control. I didn’t want “Mom and Dad running to the rescue.” That would have made things worse. 

Mr. Johnson pulls up to their house at the same time as Mrs. Johnson with Mac. As they get out and walk toward him, Mrs. Johnson tells Mac that his father doesn’t look happy.

Mrs. Johnson: Well, he’s suspended again, Babe. 

Mr. Johnson: He’s spoiled. Mac, go in the house, unplug your big screen, box up your game system and all your games, and I’ll talk to you later. 

Mac: But— Daaad!!! 

Mrs. Johnson: Boy, do as your father say! 

Mac heads into the house mad, feeling like no one listens to him.

Mrs. Johnson: Hey, Honey. 

Mr. Johnson: Hey, Baby. Missed you. 

The parents hug and kiss as they walk into the house together.

Read what happens next in part 2, “Unconditional Love.