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Home > The Sky Is Falling(8)

The Sky Is Falling(8)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

Miraculously, Dana had changed all that. She was the one who had found him living homeless on the streets of Sarajevo. After Kemal was airlifted by the Red Cross to the orphanage, Kemal wrote Dana a letter. To his astonishment, she had telephoned the orphanage and said that she wanted Kemal to come live with her in America. That was the happiest moment of Kemal's life. It was an impossible dream come true, and it turned out to be a joy even greater than he had ever imagined.

Kemal's life had changed completely. He was grateful now that no one had chosen him before. He was no longer alone in the world. Someone cared about him. He loved Dana with all his heart and soul, but within him was always the terrible fear that Ricky Underwood had instilled, that someday Dana would change her mind and send him back to the orphanage, to the life of hell he had escaped. He had a recurring dream: He was back in the orphans' asylum, and it was Friday. A line of adults was inspecting the children, and Dana was there. She looked at Kemal and said, That ugly little boy has only one arm, and she moved on and picked the boy next to him. Kemal would wake up in tears.

Kemal knew that Dana hated for him to get into fights at school, and he did everything he could to avoid them, but he could not bear to have Ricky Underwood or his friends insult Dana. As soon as they realized that, the insults about Dana increased, and so did the fights.

Ricky would greet Kemal with "Hey, have you packed your suitcase, shrimp? On the news this morning it said your bitch stepmother is going to send you back to Yugoslavia."

"Zbosti!"Kemal would yell.

And the fight would begin. Kemal would come home with black eyes and bruises, but when Dana asked him what had happened, he could not tell her the truth, for he was terrified that if he put it into words, what Ricky Underwood had said might happen.

Now, as Kemal waited in the principal's office for Dana to arrive, he thought, When she hears what I've done this time, she is going to send me away. He sat there miserable, his heart racing.

When Dana entered the office of Thomas Henry, the principal was pacing the floor, looking grim. Kemal sat in a chair across the room.

"Good morning, Miss Evans. Please sit down."

Dana glanced at Kemal and took a seat.

Thomas Henry picked up a large butcher knife from his desk. "One of Kemal's teachers took this from him."

Dana swiveled to look at Kemal, furious. "Why?" she asked angrily. "Why did you bring this to school?"

Kemal looked at Dana and said sullenly, "I didn't have a gun."

"Kemal!"

Dana turned to the principal. "May I speak to you alone, Mr. Henry?"

"Yes." He looked over at Kemal, his jaw tight. "Wait in the hallway."

Kemal got to his feet, took one last look at the knife, and left.

Dana began, "Mr. Henry, Kemal is twelve years old. He's lived most of those years going to sleep with the sound of exploding bombs in his ears, the same bombs that killed his mother and father and sister. One of those bombs took off his arm. When I found Kemal in Sarajevo, he was living in a cardboard box in a vacant lot. There were a hundred other homeless boys and girls there, living like animals." She was remembering, trying to keep her voice steady.

"The bombs have stopped, but the boys and girls are still homeless and helpless. The only way they can defend themselves against their enemies is with a knife or a rock or a gun, if they're lucky enough to get hold of one." Dana closed her eyes for an instant and took a deep breath. "These children are scarred. Kemal is scarred, but he's a decent boy. He just needs to learn that he's safe here. That none of us is his enemy. I promise you he won't do this again."

There was a long silence. When Thomas Henry spoke, he said, "If I ever need a lawyer, Miss Evans, I'd like you to defend me."

Dana managed a relieved smile. "I promise."

Thomas Henry sighed. "All right. Have a talk with Kemal. If he does anything like this again, I'm afraid I'll have to - "

"I'll talk to him. Thank you, Mr. Henry."

Kemal was waiting in the hallway.

"Let's go home," Dana said curtly.

"Did they keep my knife?"

She did not bother to answer.

During the ride home, Kemal said, "I'm sorry I got you in trouble, Dana."

"Oh, no trouble. They've decided not to kick me out of school. Look, Kemal - "

"Okay. No more knives."

When they returned to the apartment, Dana said, "I have to get back to the studio. The sitter will be here any minute. Tonight you and I are going to have to have a long talk."

When the evening broadcast was finished, Jeff turned to Dana. "You look worried, honey."

"I am. It's Kemal. I don't know what to do about him, Jeff. I had to go see his principal again today, and two more housekeepers have quit because of him."

"He's a great kid," Jeff said. "He just needs warm-up time."

"Maybe. Jeff?"

"Yes?"

"I hope I didn't make a terrible mistake bringing him here."

When Dana returned to the apartment, Kemal was waiting.

Dana said, "Sit down. We have to talk. You must start obeying the rules, and these fights at school have to stop. I know the other boys are making it difficult for you, but you've got to come to some understanding with them. If you keep getting into fights, Mr. Henry is going to throw you out of school."

"I don't care."

"Youhave to care. I want you to have a wonderful future, and that can't happen without an education. Mr. Henry is giving you a break, but - "

"Fuck him."

"Kemal!" Without thinking, Dana slapped him across the face. She was instantly sorry. Kemal stared at her, a look of disbelief on his face, got up, ran into the study, and slammed the door shut.

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