Heart to Heart. Kayla Perrin
got to head to my basketball practice.”
“Sure thing,” Deanna said. “I’ll see you in a bit, then.”
Kwame bounded out of the office—did the kid ever walk?—and Deanna followed Eric into the office, smiling softly as she saw his name on the gold plate on the door.
PRINCIPAL E. BELL.
“Congrats on becoming principal,” she told him, gazing around at the plaques on the wall. They highlighted his various educational accomplishments. “I’m very impressed.”
“Thanks,” Eric said. He closed the door. “Have a seat.”
Deanna took a seat in front of his desk. Eric rounded the desk and sank into his plush leather chair. Folding his hands in front of him, he merely stared at her for a few seconds. “It really is great to see you. I always wondered how you were doing.”
“It’s great to see you, too, Eric.”
“I read about your aunt’s death. I’m very sorry.”
A wave of sadness washed over Deanna. “Thanks. It’s been hard, but my aunt dying brought me and my sisters back to Cleveland. Which got us to work out our differences.”
Eric nodded. “The proverbial silver lining. I know your aunt is looking down on you all with approval.”
“Yes,” Deanna agreed, a smile touching her lips. “I believe that, too.”
“I sent you an email once,” Eric said, changing the subject. “But you didn’t respond.”
“Yeah. To your website. I guess you get too many messages from fans to notice that one was from me. Either that or you didn’t want to respond,” he added, his tone lighthearted.
Deanna grimaced. “I’m sorry. Of course I would have responded had I seen your email. I didn’t even check my messages—I had a couple of assistants do that for me. They shared some of the fan mail with me, but not all. They even sent out my responses. Sometimes they would flag certain messages and not respond if they thought they sounded suspicious. For example, if they thought someone was trying to use a feigned past association as a way to get to me, they especially wouldn’t let me see the message.”
Eric nodded. “Guess that’s what happens when you become rich and famous.”
“It all sounds so superficial, doesn’t it?” Deanna commented. She had never been totally comfortable with letting others read and respond to her fan mail, but she’d been advised that it was the best way. “It was just easier to have someone else deal with the fan mail while I concentrated on the music.”
“Of course. I wasn’t passing judgment. Just letting you know that I tried to reach out to you.”
“I’m the same girl you knew years ago,” Deanna said. It was important that he know that. Yes, she had left and gone to Hollywood, but she had been running as much as she had been chasing a dream. Now that the dream had crashed and burned, she didn’t even know if she wanted it anymore.
“I don’t doubt that,” Eric said. “It’s why you’re here right now. The fact that you’re willing to talk to the students about what you do shows you’re the type of person who wants to give back.”
“It’s no big deal,” Deanna said, waving a dismissive hand.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Eric said. “You talking to the students will be very inspiring. Your influence will be stronger than you know.”
Deanna shrugged. “I certainly hope so.”
“It will be, trust me. I’ve discussed your visit with Mrs. Mortensen, Kwame’s teacher. And she said that any time you want to come in will be great.”
“Oh,” Deanna said. “I thought I was going to have a meeting with her this afternoon.”
“Actually, I’m the one who wanted to speak to you.”
“You?” Deanna asked. “To say hi?” she added with a soft chuckle.
“No. I wanted to speak to you because I have another idea in mind, as well. Something else for you to consider.”
Deanna looked at Eric with a question in her eyes. “What’s that?”
“Our eighth-grade drama club is going to be doing something different this year—a musical production. Annie. Peter Guy, our music teacher, was supposed to be directing the production. But he was recently in a bad car wreck and will be off for months. Sanjay Singh, one of our history teachers, stepped up to the plate to say he could take over directing.”
“A history teacher?” Deanna questioned.
“He said he used to perform in community theater,” Eric said with a shrug. “And he’s helped Peter out with some plays in the past. Given the circumstances, I didn’t have much choice. Yes, there’s a new music teacher here in Peter’s place, and I’m sure she could do an adequate job directing the musical production. But when Mrs. Mortensen talked to me about Kwame’s suggestion, the idea came to me that I could ask you if you would mind helping out. Lend your musical expertise.”
“You want me to work on your school’s musical production?”
“In the capacity of a music coordinator, which really could be whatever you want it to be. The main thing would be to have you working with the children, which I hope might inspire some of them to come out of their shells.”
“But I don’t understand. If they’re in a drama club, aren’t they already outgoing?” All of the actor types Deanna knew in Hollywood were anything but shy.
“Not exactly,” Eric said. “Some, yes. The drama club obviously attracts kids who are extroverts. But I’ve personally challenged some kids to join the drama club as a way to help boost their self-esteem. They’re doing it because they respect me, and because I promised the group a trip to New York for an actual Broadway musical at the end of the year. They are capable of more than they believe they are, and they need a challenge—something they can conquer—that will help build up their self-image. I figured having someone like you here working with them might inspire them.”
“That’s a really great idea,” Deanna said, not in the least surprised that Eric had become a principal at such a young age. He had a knack for figuring out ways to inspire people.
“Thanks. What do you think? The drama club meets twice a week after school. Wednesdays and Thursdays. If you’re interested, you could come tomorrow.”
“’I’d be happy to help out,” Deanna said.
“Now, it would be a volunteer position—”
“Oh, that’s fine,” Deanna interjected. “I don’t need to be paid to help out with a school production.” She still had a healthy bank account, and giving back was one of the things that she wanted to do in a more meaningful way. It was one thing to donate cash to causes but another thing altogether to actually work at something where you made a difference. She had seen how much joy Natalie had gotten from working with the Compassion For Families charity, how gratifying that had been for her.
“Yeah?” Eric asked. “It’ll be a good couple months of work. Once a week in the beginning, but likely a few times a week as the production date gets near.”
“Which is perfectly fine with me.” She paused. “Though I have to be honest. There are a few things going on in my life that might demand my time unexpectedly. I anticipate being available for every rehearsal, but something might come up. As long as that won’t be a problem…”
“It’s a volunteer position,” Eric said, and he gave her a look as if to say he couldn’t expect her to give up her life for the cause. “That’s not a problem…unless you realize you can’t make it to most of the rehearsals.”