As he stood in front of his classmates, he could feel all eyes fixed on him. And after a while, he could also feel how tears came to his eyes. He was paralyzed with the tension, so he didn’t wipe them off.
He listened to the teacher’s words as she kept talking. But suddenly, three girls from his classroom also stood up; and they said something that left everyone bewildered.
Tom Lavine always had spent most of his life hoping that he would finally find a stable family that could keep him with them. The kid was about to turn twelve, and he had gone through two failed adoption processes.
Even though he never talked to anyone about it, he was starting to lose hope. He thought he would never find a foster family. But then, he met his new adoptive parents: Simu and Carter.
Simu and Carter stepped into Tom’s life like a miracle. They adopted him, he moved with them to their house in the suburbs, and was as happy as he could be. The couple loved him to no end.
They could afford to give Tom everything he could have asked for, from a gaming console to a bike. They signed him up to the neighborhood school as well. Finally, Tom could let go of his worries and enjoy a peaceful life in a loving home. But this wouldn’t last for long.
One Monday, an event took place that would change Tom’s life forever. But it all started like a normal day. Tom, like many other students across the country, was fresh from some well-deserved rest during Thanksgiving break.
Back in school, one of the teachers suggested an activity: he asked the students to share with the class something they were grateful for. Tom raised his hand; little did he know that speaking up about what it was that he was grateful for in life would have major consequences.
Immediately, the teacher set her eyes on Tom. Smiling, she encouraged him to say his piece. Tom stood up and cleared his throat, ready to do so. The class giggled, and Tom smiled.
“I’m thankful for being adopted by my two dads,” Tom said. “I didn’t think I’d ever be accepted or loved. Yet every day, they show me–” THe teacher instantly stopped smiling and made a motion to make Tom stop.
The teacher then asked something: “Did you say dad or dads?”, she said. Her voice didn’t sound particularly hostile, but Tom could feel the tension in the air. “Dads. They’re two, Miss Chelsea,” he responded.
The teacher didn’t say anything; she just chuckled, and a grin instantly came to her face. This creeped Tom out; nothing had happened yet, but he could feel that something was wrong.
“Yeah sure, two dads. I wonder what will come next?” the teacher said to the class, expecting everyone to burst into laughter. But everyone remained silent. Noticing this, the teacher just fixed her collar and kept talking to Tom. And she said some mean things.
The teacher’s words hurt Tom like nothing before. He remembered all those days in the orphanage, waiting for someone to have some compassion for him. He hoped that Miss Chelsea would stop her tirade. But it got even worse.
Miss Chelsea kept saying bigoted things about Simu and Carter, making assumptions and reducing them to a stereotype. The whole class remained silent. Clearly, they were cringing at the teacher’s angry speech.
Tom just stood there, forced to listen. His teacher was supposed to be the one to help him and build him up; but she was doing the opposite. He thought about talking back; but after thinking for a bit, he felt he shouldn’t go there.
Even though Tom was just a kid, he fully grasped what it was that the teacher was saying. Simu and Carter had made his life better in a major way; as a matter of fact, they had built a whole life for him. So he felt like he had to stand up for them.
But Tom remembered about his two past failed adoptions. What if messed things up by saying something? He didn’t want to lose his dads. So all he could do was just stand there, listening to his teacher’s bigoted speech.
Tom looked down to the floor. Tears came to his eyes and slid down his cheeks. He felt an uncomfortable heat taking over him; he also felt sick in his stomach with shame and anxiety.
He almost couldn’t take it anymore. Miss Chelsea just kept talking, and Tom felt more and more uncomfortable. But suddenly, something happened that made Tom raise his head.
“Stop!” someone screamed before Tom. Someone else shouted the same thing to his side. “Please, Miss Chelsea, stop,” another voice rented the classroom.
But the teacher did not stop. If anything, she took this as a reason to speak louder. A sob pushed its way out of Tom’s mouth, and he stifled it. Could this get any worse?
Two girls shot to their feet before Tom. Another girl stood up near the wall. They didn’t speak, only turned to Tom with glossy eyes.
Tom looked at the three girls and knew his life was over. The school would expel him, and his dads wouldn’t move forward with him as their son. It was over. He couldn’t have predicted what happened next.
The first two girls stormed out of the classroom. The third one came and patted Tom’s hand before following them.
Miss Chelsea raised her brow at this new development, craning her neck out of the door to see what was happening. She shrugged and returned to class. “Anyway,” she said, but the principal marched into the classroom.
“Excuse me, Miss Chelsea. Can I see you in my office? Now, thanks,” the principal said between gritted teeth. The teacher looked at the principal disbelievingly but followed him out.
The three girls who’d fetched the principal hurried to Tom, cleaning his face. “It’s okay,” one of them said. “It’s over.” But even though he wanted to believe them, Tom knew he still had to face his dads and try to explain everything.
Simu and Carter showed up within seconds of each other. They hugged Tom tight as he tried to explain the situation. “We don’t care, Tommy,” Simu said. “And we’re so sorry you went through this,” Carter added.
As the family embraced, they saw the teacher leave with a carton of desk accessories and books. As she hopped into her car and screeched away, Tom finally understood he was not alone anymore.