Conference Call

Oliver sighed as he read the report Peter had taken home. It was a letter from his Agriculture teacher explaining that Peter was failing the course, and something needed to change. He glanced up at his son, who was currently sprawled out on the couch and pointedly refusing to meet his gaze.

"Peter, I thought you were doing all of your work. What happened?" Oliver frowned. "If you were having trouble with something, I could've helped you study—"

"You know I've been busy, Dad!" Peter groaned. "It's not my fault."

Oliver sighed again and rubbed his forehead. He knew Peter was in a lot of clubs at school, not to mention the orchestra, which was having a concert soon. In light of that, he didn't want to be too hard on him—but Peter was doing so well in all his other classes. Why was the Intro to Animal Science class the only one that was suffering?

"Well, I'll be talking to your teacher on Wednesday, so we can sort something out then. Now go get some rest before dinner."

Peter huffed and rolled over so that he was facing the back of the couch. Oliver looked at him for several seconds before standing up and heading into the kitchen. Hopefully, they'd clear this up soon enough.

Oliver double-checked the classroom number after he pulled into the school's parking lot. He'd been to school events before, but he wasn't sure where this room was. When he got inside, he stopped at the office—telling the woman at the counter he was there for a parent-teacher conference—and got directions to the Agriculture wing.

Once he got to the right room, Peter's teacher was waiting for him. Ms. Greene was sitting at her desk, looking over a few papers. Oliver paused in the doorway. He found himself distracted by the way several strands of her long blonde hair had fallen out of her ponytail and were framing her face… Fortunately, she didn't seem to have noticed him staring at her, and Oliver cleared his throat as he stepped inside.

"Ah, Ms. Greene? I'm Peter's father—I'm here for the conference," he said hastily.

She looked up at him, a smile briefly flickering over her face before it returned to a neutral expression. Ms. Greene gestured at the extra chair she'd pulled up in front of her desk, and Oliver quickly sat down. Then, she glanced back down at the papers she'd been examining.

"Mr. Ellison, did you know that Peter hasn't turned in a single assignment in the past two weeks?"

Oliver cringed; Ms. Greene had gotten right to the point. That was what they were here for, of course, but having it stated so bluntly made it sound worse. Oliver usually appreciated things being said plainly, so he was grateful in a way, but still…

"He told me he was doing all of his work." Oliver sighed heavily. "I should've made sure he was telling the truth, but I thought he was on top of everything."

Ms. Greene bridged her fingers, staring at him over her hands. "I understand that your son participates in a lot of extracurricular activities. Perhaps cutting one or two of them could help?"

Oliver frowned. "I don't want to make him drop anything if I don't have to, but perhaps we could compromise on something. The football team only has two more games left, so if things aren't better by then, I'll talk to him about dropping something."

He knew football season well—Oliver coached the team at his own high school, where he also taught history. It was unfortunately on the other side of town from Peter's school; being in a different district meant they were on slightly different schedules. At least it hadn't interfered with setting up this meeting, so Oliver was grateful for that.

Ms. Greene nodded. "I'd appreciate it. Now, I compiled a list of all the things I need him to do. I'll consider granting him an extension on the paper, but I need the two take-home quizzes by Monday."

Oliver examined the list she handed him. Fortunately, they were mostly worksheets—if Oliver helped him, Peter could probably power through most of them over the weekend. It would take some effort, but…provided Peter still had everything, it was possible.

"Thank you, Ms. Greene. I know how busy you must be, so I appreciate you getting this together for me."

"Of course." Ms. Greene sighed. "I want to help my students as much as I can… I'd worried that something was going on at home, but I'm glad to see you're willing to help him, too."

Oliver nodded. "Of course. If that's all, then…?"

"Everything I needed, yes. Thank you for coming, Mr. Ellison."

They stood up and shook hands. Oliver paused before stepping back; he was struck by how tall she was, which had been hard to tell when sitting down. Ms. Greene raised an eyebrow curiously, though her mouth remained in a mostly-straight neutral line.

Oliver cleared his throat awkwardly. "My apologies; I didn't mean to stare. I just…er…you wouldn't happen to be busy next Friday, would you?"

Her other eyebrow rose. "This is the first time I've come out of a parent-teacher conference being asked out on a date."

"I'm sorry, I—"

"I'm not angry." Her lips twitched into another brief smile. "Provided you're single, of course?"

"For a while now, yes," Oliver confessed. "And assuming you are, too…"

Ms. Greene made a vaguely amused noise as she reached for another scrap of paper. After writing down her number, she handed it to him. Oliver looked at it, almost uncomprehendingly. He must've sounded like a creep—he would've understood if the number was fake—but there was a number, written beneath the name Hannah Greene.

"I'm sorry if I gave off the wrong impression," he said sheepishly. "I promise I don't go to all of my son's school events looking for dates."

"I believe you; you have a very honest face," Hannah replied. "Call me when you've decided on something, then?"

"Of course—thank you again."

She nodded, and Oliver waved (slightly awkwardly) as he headed out of the room. Well…this was certainly something, he thought when he got in his car and headed home.

"Dad!" Peter said, looking absolutely mortified. "You can't go on a date with Ms. Greene! How am I going to go to class now?"

Oliver grinned sheepishly. "The same way everyone else does?"

"But this isn't the same as everyone else! Ugh, this is the worst."

Peter groaned and buried his face in his hands. Well, at least they'd made good progress on his homework. Still, the topic was bound to come up eventually, so Oliver figured he may as well get it out of the way.

"Well, it might just be one date. Look at it that way."

Peter grumbled and turned back to his worksheet instead of dignifying that with a response.

It wasn't just one date.

Oliver had taken Hannah out to a small but nice restaurant for dinner. During their meal, their various non-school interests had naturally come up. She took karate classes over summer vacation, and he attended a small judo group on his breaks. Hannah had taken archery lessons over various summers as a child, and Oliver wanted to learn how to fence. They both liked the same kinds of old action movies and going on long walks when they had free time.

The kicker was that she had a young daughter of her own—a girl named Lindsay still in middle school—and Hannah was sure that she would like some company. She had plenty of friends, of course, but meeting someone new would do her some good. Oliver wholeheartedly agreed, hoping Peter wouldn't object too much to meeting her.

One date soon turned into two, then four, then eight, and Peter had no choice but to accept that his dad was now seeing his Ag teacher.

"Why is my life so weird?" Peter muttered after Oliver came home one weekend. "What did I do to deserve this?"

"You could've done all your homework earlier," Oliver said slyly. "Maybe then this wouldn't have happened."

"This really is the worst!"

Oliver laughed as he slipped out of his shoes. Perhaps he shouldn't be having so much fun at his son's expense, but he was actually grateful for Peter's previous troubles now.