Part 1 of The Miss Jess Chronicles
Thanks to Shandy for the input, beta and general support on all of these stories.
"Vin is a very bright boy. The dyslexia doesn't seem too severe." Dr. Lowery explained the situation to the young woman sitting opposite his desk.
"And the school?" she asked. "They're willing to let me come in and work with the boy?"
"Yes. I've already spoken to them if you're interested in helping," the doctor informed her.
"And the parents?"
The doctor looked at her thoughtfully. Taking another file from his desk, he handed it to her. "Nettie Wells is the one who recommended I speak with you. She has been working with Vin, JD, and the two men who have taken in the boys and now adopted them, Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington. She gave me that file for you."
"So this was Nettie's idea?" she asked, opening the inch thick file he had given her.
"Yes. She told me she has worked with you before. Highly recommended you."
"I'll want to test him myself, if I decide to help," she told him. "Will he be coming to see you again soon?"
"Next week. I can give you the details once you decide," Dr. Lowery confirmed.
"You still didn't say if his parent agrees to this," she pointed out.
"Mr. Larabee is willing to do whatever necessary for Vin. But, he will want to meet you, possibly before you meet Vin."
She eyed the man before her, considering his statement. "I'll look over what you've given me and let you know in a few days what I decide. I'll also want to talk to Nettie."
Dr. Lowery nodded. He had expected as much from the astute young woman that Nettie had recommended. "I look forward to hearing from you," he said, holding out his hand to shake hers before she left his office.
Jessica McIntyre sat in her home office, Vin Tanner's file from Dr. Lowery open on her desk. She started reading. Vincent Michael Tanner (Vin), age 7, date of birth October 2, 2001. Mother, Rebecca Lilly Tanner - deceased. Father, Michael James Tanner - deceased. She continued reading about how Vin and his five-year-old friend, JD Dunne, had been found living in a warehouse by a team of ATF agents. How Vin had been shot and stayed in the hospital for several weeks. That Chris Larabee, head of the ATF team that had found them, had requested to be Vin's foster father. A side note that Buck Wilmington, an agent under Larabee, had requested the same of JD Dunne.
Jessica stopped reading, eyeing the other file that lay on her desk, the one from Nettie Wells, the boys' social worker. That file would give more information on the foster fathers from the social worker's standpoint. Deciding to finish the doctor's file first, she started reading again.
The doctor's notes documented well the seven-year-old's fears and inability to communicate them or his other feelings, though that was slowly changing for the better. She continued reading for the better part of an hour before she finished the file. Sighing deeply, she wondered what she might be getting herself into if she took on this case.
After a break for lunch, Jessica opened the file from Nettie. This file gave Vin's history, or what little was known of it. The speculations of his mother's death and where the boy had been between then and turning up in the warehouse. She was most interested in the sections on the men who were now a large part of Vin's life. Not only were there Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington, who had moved in together to keep the boys together, but the rest of Larabee's ATF team; Nathan Jackson, a trained EMT; Josiah Sanchez, a profiler; and Ezra Standish, a former FBI agent. It seemed these other men had become adopted 'uncles' by both boys. From Nettie's notes, it seemed the five men were very close and all concerned about the welfare of the two boys.
This certainly was an interesting family situation. Of course, she had seen many family scenarios. One could never tell who would be most beneficial to a child. She sighed again, picking up the phone to make some phone calls.
Dr. Lowery was pleased to hear from Miss McIntyre a few days later. She had agreed to help Vin with his dyslexia wanting to meet her new student and his father at their next session with the therapist. He had readily agreed to provide her with a room for them to meet and for her to test Vin on his reading ability. After seeing the unique little family off and on over the last year he was pleased to be able to help in another way. Picking up the phone, he called Nettie Wells.
Chris Larabee hung up the phone and stood in the kitchen thinking about what their social worker had told him. Nettie Wells had mentioned wanting someone to work with Vin regarding his learning disability not long after Vin had come to stay with Chris. Things had not worked out then but it seemed the woman Nettie had wanted was available this year. With school due to start in a little over a month, the woman, Jessica McIntyre, wanted to meet Chris and Vin and evaluate Vin's abilities.
Nettie had spoken highly of the teacher and Chris decided he would do some checking on her himself before telling Vin anything. The seven year old did not care for school and Chris was not going to worry the boy unduly. Between now and Vin's next appointment on Wednesday with Dr. Lowery he would see what he could discover. It seemed Vin's therapist and social worker were both in agreement on Miss McIntyre helping Vin.
Being an ATF agent had its benefits. Chris, with Ezra Standish's help; Ezra seemed to have many ways of getting information; gathered a good deal of positive information on Miss McIntyre. They had both been rather impressed with her teaching record. Vin's next appointment with Dr. Lowery was scheduled in two days. Chris decided he would tell Vin about their meeting with his potentially new reading teacher tomorrow night so that the boy did not worry over it too long.
Chris and Vin sat in two adjoining chairs in Dr. Lowery's waiting room. Vin was indeed nervous since his father had told him about the lady who wanted to help with his reading. He was not very good at it and he was embarrassed to read in front of others. They were called back for his session with the doctor, both unaware that Miss McIntyre was watching their interaction in the playroom while Dr. Lowery talked to father and son.
The therapist and teacher had agreed that she would speak to Mr. Larabee while Vin was in session with Dr. Lowery. She now observed the tall thin blonde man dressed in black jeans and a navy blue shirt a few minutes before entering the playroom.
Chris was flipping though a two-month-old magazine when the door opened and a woman walked in.
Jessica approached the man, hand outstretched in greeting. "Mr. Larabee? Jessica McIntyre. I believe you've talked to Dr. Lowery and Nettie Wells about me teaching Vin."
Chris stood and shook the offered hand, taking in the rather tall woman with the friendly smile. "Chris Larabee," he confirmed.
"I thought we could talk while Vin is with Dr. Lowery," she continued, indicating he sit again, taking the chair opposite. "I have to tell you upfront I take a very different approach to teaching than most." He raised an eyebrow but did not say anything. "I like to be involved with my students or as involved as they and their parents allow. Having read Vin's files from the doctor and Nettie, I understand there might be some hesitation on both your parts in that area. I follow the student's lead on that as well as yours."
Chris liked her upfront approach, confident yet friendly. "Go on," he prodded when she paused to give him a moment to comprehend fully what she said.
"I also expect parents to play a part in their children's education. Children are better students when their parents care about what they are learning and doing in school. You'll have your own version of homework from me," she told him with a somewhat teasing smile.
Chris cocked his eyebrow at her again, "Like?" he asked, curious.
"I can give you more information on that after I've tested Vin. Depending on the learning disability, there will be exercises for him to do at home. Are you the one that helps him with his homework?"
"Not always," he told her. "I'm sure you know about Buck and the others?"
"The men on your ATF team?" she asked for clarification. "Yes," she said at his nod of affirmation. "I understand that Vin and the other boy, JD, have 'adopted' them as uncles? That you and Mr. Wilmington live together to raise the boys?"
"That's right," Chris told her. She did not seem at all fazed by the odd family they made.
"Do all of you help with homework?" This might cause problems she thought.
"Usually it's Buck or me, but Ezra - Ezra Standish," he clarified, "has been helping Vin the most with his reading and writing."
That piqued her interest. "Really? Have you noticed improvement in those areas since he's been helping Vin?"
She made a few notes on a note pad he had not even noticed. "We can discuss that aspect after I've seen Vin. Do you have any questions for me?"
"How exactly does this work? Vin's already in school so where do you fit in?"
Before she could answer, there was a knock on the door and it opened. One of the receptionists told them Dr. Lowery was finished with Vin for today and they would be coming in a few minutes.
"I think that will be answered while I talk to Vin. When one of my students is present, I speak directly to them. I will not be ignoring you. I will actually be talking to both of you but I find it helps engage the child if I direct the conversation to them. You are welcome to be present at all times while we meet if you think it will help. My first priority is always the children."
Dr. Lowery and Vin walked in a few seconds after her last statement. Vin eyed her nervously as he made his way to his father's side and sat next to him.
Jessica smiled warmly at the seven year old. "Hello, Vin," she said. "I'm Jessica McIntyre but you can call me Miss Jess. Your father and Dr. Lowery told you about me didn't they?"
Vin nodded, looking at her shyly.
"Nettie Wells is the one who suggested that Dr. Lowery ask me to help you. I have worked with some of the other children she has helped. You like Miss Nettie don't you?"
Again the boy nodded, his big blue eyes watching her intently.
"So do I. She's hard not to like isn't she?" Jessica asked conspiratorially. He gave another nod. "I've already talked to your teachers and the principal at your school. They will have a place for us to meet everyday once school starts. I will come in at the end of the day and we will work together, just the two of us. That way you get all of my attention and I can focus on what works best for you." She thought he looked like he wanted to ask her something so she prompted, "Do you have a question for me?"
"Will there be homework?" he asked reluctantly.
She smiled and chuckled. "Yes, you'll have homework but so will your father."
Vin's eyes widened at that and he looked at his dad briefly. Turning back to her, he asked in disbelief, "You're gonna give Dad homework?"
Her eyes danced with warm amusement and her smile grew bigger. "Actually, whoever helps you with yours will have the homework. It sounds like you have quite a few helpers."
Vin giggled at the thought of Uncle Ezra getting homework to do.
Jess enjoyed the boy's shy giggle before continuing. "I have a few things I want you to do before you go. These will help me see where you are with your reading and writing, that way I know how best to teach you. Once school starts, it may take a week or two for me to work out the best way to help you. Not everyone learns the same way or at the same pace." Looking over at the child size play table, she asked, "Why don't we go to the table?"
Vin went to the table and sat down. Miss Jess followed with a few pieces of paper in her hand.
Chris had watched the interaction between Vin and Miss McIntyre with great interest. Vin had a very good sense about people and he seemed to be warming up to her. Her friendly attitude and caring voice was hard to dislike. She was very good with him, explaining things in an easy way and as she said, giving him her full attention. He was a bit surprised when she pulled out one of the child size chairs and instead of sitting on it knelt down at the table.
Kneeling at the table so she could talk to Vin, she handed him a blank piece of paper and a pencil. She thought he looked a little scared when he glanced at the blank paper and she quickly reassured, "These are just tools to help me see where you are with your reading and writing. Just do your best." She had to force herself not to instinctively reach out and run her hand down the back of his head at the look in his eyes. Having read his files, she knew he was leery of being touched. "All I want you to do right now is write out the alphabet, capital letter then lower case letter. Okay?"
He nodded and picked up the pencil to do as she asked. He took his time to write out the letters carefully, trying to do it correctly.
"That's good," she told him when he was finished and handed her the paper. She handed him another piece of paper with a few paragraphs typed on it. "Now, I want you to read this out loud for me, okay?" He looked at her apprehensively and she smiled at him, eyes full of compassion. "It's alright. You can do it," she told him gently.
Vin took a big breath and let it out before determinedly starting to read. It was a slow process as he tried to make out the words to read aloud. When he had made it through the first paragraph, she stopped him.
"That was good," she praised sincerely. "Now, can you tell me what you read about?" His little brows furrowed as he thought about it and sadly shook his head no. "That's alright," she soothed. "Do you know what comprehension means?" He shook his head no again. "Comprehension is how well you understand something that you hear or see or read. This time I'm going to read to you, okay?"
"K," he told her quietly.
When she finished reading, she asked him a series of questions about what she had read. Having only heard the story he had to think about some of the questions but answered them all correctly. "Very good," she praised. "That is all I have for you today. Why don't we go over and join your dad again?"
"K," he said and walked back over and sat down by Chris.
Jessica returned to the seat opposite them and looking between the two she asked, "Do either of you have any questions?"
"Not at this time," Chris told her as Vin shook his head no.
She handed Chris a business card. "If you, either of you, have any questions before school starts just call me." Turning her attention back to Vin she added, "Once school starts, I'll be keeping your dad informed on how you are doing. He'll need to know so he can do his homework too." The little boy giggled again at his father, Buck, or Ezra having homework too. "I'll also be keeping your regular teachers informed so they can change any accommodations they give you as you make improvements." Again, she thought Vin wanted to ask her something. "Do you have a question?" she prompted gently.
"Will you really help me?" he asked quietly. "Make it easier?"
Those eyes were something, looking at her innocently with a hint of doubt and uncertainty. "Do you want to be able to read better?"
"Yes," he replied, nodding his head a little.
"And you want to learn your letters better?"
He nodded again.
Jessica smiled warmly, her eyes sparkling. "Then I can help make them easier for you." Looking from one to the other, she waited a moment for any more questions. "If there is nothing else we're done for today."
Chris looked at Vin. "You ready, Vin?"
"Yeah," he said getting up to go.
Chris stood as well, offering his hand to Vin's new teacher. "Miss McIntyre, it was nice to meet you. I guess we'll see you when school starts."
Shaking his hand, she smiled at him. "It was nice to meet you as well Mr. Larabee and you Vin. You enjoy the rest of your summer and I'll see you at school."
"Bye," the little boy called as they left the room.
Chris had been driving for a while when he finally asked Vin, "What did you think of Miss Jess?" Green eyes looked at the reflection of Vin in the review mirror for his reaction.
Vin was looking out the window and shrugged.
"You think you'll like her helping you with your reading?" He saw another shrug. Another few minutes passed. "Vin?"
The boy in the back sighed. "I guess. She was nice."
Chris grinned, "But you don't want to think about school yet do you?"
"No," the boy responded emphatically.
"Maybe with her help you'll like school." Their eyes met in the mirror, Vin's distinctly doubtful, Chris' amused.
Continues in Connecting