“Amber Appleton is sexy!” Ricky says.

“True?” I ask, and then blush like a moron.


“True,” Donna says, and nods in this killer gangsta way that makes me believe her.

BBB barks once in agreement. “Rew!”

“Cool,” I say, smiling.

I eat my dinner, and then Ricky and I clean up the dishes while Donna answers a bazillion e-mails on her Blackberry. Her thumbs move at the speed of light, and I dig how she mouths the words she is typing, like a little kid would.

Jared shows up with his brother Chad strapped to his back like a toddler in a baby backpack. Chad never really grew, and his head is almost as big as his body. We told him to leave Das Boot at home for dramatic effect. Ty is right behind the Fox brothers, and all are totally psyched to put on their new shirts.

The boys talk about Halo 3 while I take BBB out to pee and Donna gets changed.

After I have B Thrice locked up in his room and listening to classical music, I hear Donna calling my name so I walk upstairs and into her bedroom.

She has a frickin’ king-size bed even though she is thin and single. It is very kick-ass. When I enter, she’s checking her makeup in the mirror and wearing her fitted camo tee with a black skirt and knee-high leather boots with blocky two-inch heels.

“Sit,” she says to me, so I sit on the edge of her bed. “Those boys downstairs, would they be doing what we are about to do tonight if you weren’t around to lead them?”

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I shrug. My heart is beating like mad.

Donna looks me in the eye. She is a goddess.

“They wouldn’t be doing anything tonight if they didn’t know you. They’d be playing video games or jerking off or doing whatever teenage boys do when left to their own devices.”

I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing.

“I see something in you that I like very much, Amber. You’re not like most people. You are going to do something very special with your life. You’re going to do something very special tonight, because it’s what you were born to do.”

I almost crap myself, and I can feel myself shaking a little.

“Here’s a little secret between old friends,” Donna says, and then bends down to whisper into my ear. “Most people—even adults, even grown men—are like teenage boys, only they pretend they are not.” Donna stands up and winks at me. “People like you and me need to tell them what to do, so that the world won’t get too messed up. They want you to give them instructions. They need you to do this. And you know what needs to be done, because you have a good heart—and you have courage. I’ve seen your good heart at work time and time again over the years. You’re all good. One hundred percent. So trust your instincts, and speak your mind tonight. Be brave. Those boys look up to you. You’re the shepherd. Herd the sheep. Understand?”

I nod thirty times in ten seconds and blink back a few tears, because no one really talks like this to me ever, and I think I understand what Donna is saying, because I get this feeling in my chest sometimes, and I’m not really like other people.

“Let’s do this,” Donna says, and I follow her out of the bedroom.

When we get to the living room, the boys stop talking and take in Donna’s hotness. It mutes them instantly. Donna lets them take in her presence. I study Donna, and this is one of her tricks. She waits for people to take in her hotness before she speaks—always. She is the greatest person I know, and if she weren’t an atheist, I’d say she was perfect, or maybe even God incarnate.

On the way to the school board meeting, I can tell my boys are tense. I’m in the back with Ty, Jared, and Chad—and their collective nervous quietness is freaking me out a little. Also, Donna is not rocking any music, nor is she saying anything, which is strange, because she always seems to be talking or listening to music when we drive, which is how I know she is now testing my leadership abilities. Ricky is quietly counting the streetlights we pass—oblivious.

I start to wonder if my boys need a pep talk, so I say, “How does everyone feel?”

“Cool,” Ty says.

Jared and Chad nod. Chad is sitting on his brother’s lap.

“Did you memorize the speeches?” I ask.

“Yeah,” Chad says.

“Can we nail them tonight?” I ask.

“No worries,” Jared says.

“This is Franks’ livelihood we’re talking about. If Franks gets canned, no Halo 3 next year,” I say.

“Yeah,” Ty says, “we get that.”

“And Franks’ six kids,” I add. “Think of them tonight. We don’t want them living on the streets, right? Use them as motivation. Picture them in your mind.”

“We got it,” Jared says.

“Have we ever let you down before?” Chad asks.

They aren’t nervous at all, maybe because they are teenage boys and therefore do not know how much is at stake. None of them has ever been homeless either. None of them has ever missed a meal. Their lawyer and banker fathers are around to provide houses and clothes and food and all the other good stuff. These boys don’t understand what I understand.

Following my own advice, I think about Franks’ redheaded kids as we park, and my chest starts to burn—my eyes start to water.

“Leave your coats in the car, boys,” Donna says. “I want everyone to see your shirts.”

We take off our coats, get Chad into the babypack on Jared’s back, and then Donna says, “We bust in. I make a brief introduction, and then you boys follow Amber’s lead. Understood?”

My boys nod. They understand.

“Ready to start filming?” Donna says.

“Wait,” I say. “We should pray first. Before we go in.”

“If you must,” Donna says, and then walks toward the door, Ricky following his mother, because Ricky is also an atheist, just like his mom.

We are all shivering in our T-shirts, because it is cold out, but we are also geared up for the mission.

Chad, Ty, and Jared don’t really dig on JC as much as I do, but they all believe in God, so they bow their heads and close their eyes as I grab Ty’s and Jared’s hands, and say, “Dear God, we are gathered here tonight for a good cause. Franks’ job is on the line. We believe that CPHS needs Franks, that he does much more good than harm in that building, which is cool and important. If our cause be just, give us the strength to use the talents with which you have already blessed us. Help us rock the worlds of those board members. Peace out, God. And peace be with you.”

We all drop hands and open eyes.

“Ready?” I ask.

“Hell, yeah!” Chad says from behind his brother’s head.

We walk toward Donna, who has the video camera out and recording now, which makes me realize that she videoed my prayer. I’m not sure I like her videoing my prayer, but I don’t say anything about that.

Donna says, “Introduce yourself, boys.”

“Chad Fox, aka the Desert Fox, ready and willin’ and chillin’.”

“Ty Hendrix. Tower of Power even if I am only five-ten.”

“Jared Fox. Just Jared.”

“My name is Ricky Roberts. The macking mathematician,” Ricky says, which makes me smile because I made up that name for Ricky.

“Amber Appleton. Just a girl with God on her side.”

Donna holds the video camera at arms length and films herself saying, “Donna Roberts, attorney at law. We’re at the Childress Public High School board meeting. The time is 7:46 PM Tuesday, January 27, 2009. The rest will be self-explanatory.”

Keeping the camera on herself, Donna walks into the converted-into-offices house next to the elementary school, and into the boardroom where the school board meets.

There are community members and one or two local reporters seated in folding chairs; Prince Tony is in the front row with a few other administrators, and the school board is seated behind this long table front and center. Pretty standard adult stuff abounds.

We’re all in camo, hunter orange letters proclaiming who we are quite loudly. But wearing a three-piece suit that actually has a pocket watch chain draped like an evil gold smile across the man’s belly, as if he is stepping out of some old corny movie about waiting for trains to show up, Mr. Pinkston stands, removes his pocket watch from his vest, and—while reading the time—he says, “Who are you and what the hell do you think you are doing?”

Donna just stands there in front of Mr. Pinkston, front and center, wearing camo, filming herself, confidently letting all present take in her hotness.

“Sit,” Donna says, as if she were talking to Bobby Big Boy.

Amazingly, Mr. Pinkston looks up, surprised, and then sits.

The room is dead quiet.

“Ms. Roberts,” Prince Tony says in a calm, soothing voice. “What’s going on here? We don’t allow these meetings to be videotaped. Surely you can understand why.”

Donna completely ignores Prince Tony and addresses the room. “Boys and ladies. I’m with Roberts, Bradley, and Wong. If you haven’t heard of our law firm, I guarantee your lawyers have, and those boys will want to know what has been said tonight, so take notes. It’s come to our attention that you are considering cutting funding for Mr. Jonathan Franks’ marketing classes. I’ll be representing Mr. Franks and all five of the students who will be speaking tonight. All pro bono, for as long as it takes. You need to know two things before we begin. One. Roberts, Bradley, and Wong. That’s not alphabetical order. Two. Name one. The one in charge. Roberts. That’s me. Amber?”

Donna starts filming me.

I’m in total frickin’ awe.

“Amber?” Donna says.

Ty elbows me in the back.

“You’re up,” Donna says.

I look at all of the school board members. With such freaks as us in front of them—represented by one of the most feared lawyers in the tri-state area—they are in total panic mode. I can see it plainly all over their faces. All of them are impressed with Donna, except Mr. Pinkston who looks sorta like Dick Cheney and is glaring at me like he might want to roast my carcass alive and eat me for dinner. Like father, like son. Suddenly, I find my swagger.

“As my colleague clearly stated.” I called Donna my colleague. Was that a mistake? Too much? “We are here on behalf of Mr. Jonathan Franks. You may—”

“Okay. Enough foolishness. This school board is within its legal rights here tonight,” Mr. Pinkston says, completely interrupting me. “It’s perfectly legal to consider—”

“Don’t you ever interrupt my client again, Mr. Pinkston.” Donna locks eyes with Mr. Pinkston. She is unflinching. “And I think my client knows a little bit more about the law than you or anyone else in this room, because I’ve informed Ms. Appleton of her rights. As a taxpayer and a concerned citizen, I’m trying to help you avoid making yet another classic and extremely costly blunder.”

Donna turns the video camera on Mr. Pinkston.

“Don’t you dare film me!” he yells.

Donna smiles, keeps the camera on Mr. Pinkston until he turns red, and then she turns it back on me.

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