Summary: When Jane finds child pornography on her husband’s computer after a repair job, she demands a divorce. What she discovers is a sinister plot between David, Arthur, and Arthur’s former math teacher, a plot she takes to the police. Will the truly guilty parties get what they deserve?
Rated PG for adult references.
Jane gave David a firm look as he entered the house. He quickly noticed how quiet the Read house was. The children were all elsewhere, even young Kate. David wondered if she was with Mei-Lin or another child her age, and he kept going with that daydream, wondering if she was having fun playing outside or watching television.
Jane noticed he was distracted. She slammed a thick, orange envelope onto the dining room table. David went pale, “Is…that….? Are those divorce papers?” he stammered.
Jane scowled, “No, David, I want to stay with you forever. Of course they are! I can’t do this. I just cannot live with someone with this kind of habit. You could go to jail for this!” she hissed.
“No, Jane, please, you have to let me explain what’s going on here. You have to let me tell you exactly what happened. Those files…those files weren’t mine,” David said solemnly. Jane glared at him. How were they not his? “Jane, we’ve been married for so long. We have three beautiful children. Why would I ever want to give any of that up?”
“Because you have a sick habit!” Jane exclaimed.
David sighed, “It’s fine that you don’t believe me. I guess our marriage never meant anything to you. I guess you just never cared about me or anything else—“
“I care about this family! I can’t just pretend this never happened. We’re alone now because I knew this would happen. You just give me your spiel with all your excuses. I’ll listen, but I still want that divorce,” Jane said firmly, sitting in a dining chair with her arms crossed.
David nodded, sitting nervously across from her. He exhaled softly, “I took on those files to help Arthur pass the eighth grade.”
Jane merely stared, wondering where this story was going. David sighed and started to tell her everything.
[Two Years Ago]
David stepped into the Grebe Middle School office nervously. Arthur’s math teacher had called him several times about Arthur’s horrible grades, and while Jane wanted to go with him to the conference, he had to go alone because of her work.
David found the man at his desk deep within the math department’s office. He took off his reading glasses and extending his hand, giving David a firm handshake. Then he led him out of the office and into his classroom, taking a seat at the neatly organized desk at the back of the room. He pulled out a book and showed David a row he’d starred near the bottom.
“I hate to tell this to good parents like yourself, Mr. Read, but your son is at risk of failing this class. If he does, he’ll be forced to repeat the grade in order to meet state requirements,” the teacher explained. David eyed his placard. He was Raymond Harper. Arthur said people called him Harpo as a nickname, but Buster thought it was a bad nickname because he watched a lot of Oprah reruns. David decided to just call him Mr. Harper like he was supposed to if it came up.
“Is there anything we can do to help him at home? Maybe he’s not doing his homework or he needs to study longer before exams. My wife and I can make sure he does that, and we might even be able to scrounge up money for a tutor,” David said quickly.
Mr. Harper smiled, “No, Mr. Read. Don’t waste your money on one of those expensive tutors. I can tutor him after school until four-thirty. All you need to do is provide a ride for him. Can you do that?” Mr. Harper asked.
David nodded, “Of course we can do that for him. Thank you, thank you so much for this.”
A few days later, David swung by Grebe Middle to pick up Arthur after his tutoring session. Everything seemed normal, and Arthur seemed to like the extra after school attention. The only problem was a request he’d made. He wanted to use Arthur’s school account to look up sports scores blocked for the teacher accounts. Arthur allowed him but felt awkward about it.
David told Arthur to ignore the situation, to just let his teacher use his account to check the sports lineup. He wondered if he should’ve told his son that, if he should tell him to let teachers walk all over him for grades. But he thought it was innocent, just sports. He would find out later just how wrong he was.
Jane recrossed her legs, “So, what was he really using Arthur’s account for if it wasn’t sports?” she asked. David eyed her. Jane nodded, “So he used our son’s account for porn? Forgive me for not believing that, David.”
“Arthur found out. I made him swear to secrecy, and he kept that promise. Bring him here and he’ll tell you everything. He even saw when the teacher asked me to use my computer’s harddrive. He asked me the model, decided they were compatible, and…Arthur told me to go with it because he was making solid B’s for the first time in his life.”
“His grades couldn’t have jumped that—“
“Think about it, Jane. That man used us,” David said firmly.
Jane exhaled. She went to the phone and dialed the Baxter household. Bitzi answered, but she gladly called Arthur to the phone. When he realized what the call was about, he left Buster’s house quickly. He arrived within fifteen minutes, and soon he was at the dining room table too telling them everything.
[Two Years Ago]
When Arthur found the pictures on his account, he was immediately disgusted. But he was also scared. He wasn’t sure what he was looking at, but he knew what it was called, and he knew that having that stuff on his computer made him guilty. He deleted everything immediately, reminding himself with each click to clear out the Recycling Bin too. He had to remove all the evidence even though he’d never put them there in the first place.
That afternoon he met up with Mr. Harper. The teacher looked disappointed as he handed Arthur another factoring worksheet. Arthur wondered why he was so disappointed, then he saw his computer screen. Not only were there pictures up, there was a dialogue box asking for a password. No matter what he typed, the dialogue box flashed.
The password wasn’t correct. Arthur had changed his password. He instantly knew what was going on.
When David came inside to pick him up, Mr. Harper pulled him aside. They were discussing computers at first, then the conversation turned threatening. Mr. Harper was using really stern words with David, and while he didn’t budge at first, he had no choice but to let it all go when Mr. Harper threatened to fail Arthur.
David and Arthur didn’t say anything to each other about the demands. Arthur just minded his own business, trying to forget what he saw. When he saw David pluck his harddrive out of his computer then deliver it to Mr. Harper, he knew what was going on. He knew that he and his father had become Mr. Harper’s cover.
Jane eyed David, “Did you put him up to this?” she asked firmly. David looked shocked, but so did Arthur. Jane nodded, “Okay that answered my question, but why would he do something like that?”
“He’s a sick man, Jane. What other reason do you need?” David asked. Jane shook her head. David sighed, “Look, I know this got out of hand, but I didn’t think we could come forward. I thought those files were deleted, then that tech guy revived everything.”
“The pictures are still on there. I told him to wipe it…at first. I wanted the evidence for court,” Jane said meekly, turning to Arthur, “I met with your father to tell him I wanted a divorce. I’ll file away those papers if you come out against Mr. Harper and do the right thing.”
David and Arthur exchanged glances. Arthur was long out of eighth grade now. Mr. Harper couldn’t hurt him or his academic reputation again. They had to tell the truth. They had to come forward.
David looked up as the judge entered the courtroom. A few rows ahead, Mr. Harper stood at the defense table, his jail garb making him stand out in the room full of formally-dressed people. Jane stared at the sickly man with a stern expression. Though the charges held and the trial was beginning, her marriage with David was still on the rocks.
As the court proceedings began, it was clear that the Read’s weren’t the only victims. A handful of other children came forward, and search warrants exposed several other student accounts that were accessed by his computer and used for more pornographic images. Many of the ones on the children’s accounts had minors, and Mr. Harper’s lawyer was adamant that the students put them there, not the teacher.
Their case had no merit. Forensic evidence from the various accounts and Mr. Harper’s own computers proved that he had done everything. The defense tried to counter the expert witnesses, and they tried to bully the children into recanting, but they all held their ground. Mr. Harper would be going to prison for a very, very long time.
A few weeks after the trial concluded, David asked Jane if she was still considering divorce, if she still believed that David would be sick enough to fill his folders with porn. Jane pursed her lips. David had no idea what it meant. He had to wait for her response.
Jane sighed, “I can’t stay mad at you David, but you lied for two years. If your computer hadn’t been worked on, and if those files weren’t exposed, would you have ever told? Would you have taken this to your grave?”
“I had to protect Arthur. I didn’t know there were others, that the school system had parameters against him going after him later. I needed our son to get through school, and I wanted DW and Kate to have an easier time in school. He…he threatened me,” David whispered.
“I’m aware,” Jane nodded, as the issue was discussed in court. “I just needed to know if you ever would. Would you have waited until Kate graduated high school?” Jane asked. David nodded. Jane continued, “And as soon as she was out, you would’ve come forward with or without evidence?”
“It worried me about not having evidence, but I would’ve come forward,” David promised.
Jane exhaled, “I believe you. It…it took me a while, but I know I should just forgive you and move on. I want to forget this ever happened, and…the divorce papers are gone. I shredded them months ago.”
The couple did try to move past this, but they could never forget. Arthur was still deeply bothered, and all of them were paranoid about trusting teachers. The family would take years to recover, but they would remain strong. They got through this crisis together, so they would stay together.
A/N: I’m adding this to School Days, one of my collab series, because of the subject matter. I could really see a teacher do this (though I wish they wouldn’t. Gross). I’ve never written a piece like this so it’s kind of an experiment piece. I’m aware it needs work. But what’s done is done—it’s a one-shot, and it won’t be continued or edited.
If you’d like more info about my collab series, let me know.