In the Principal's Office of Woodlands Academy, the sun shined outside the window. It became the room's only source of light. The air was warm since it was the middle of summer. The work desk was empty. Its user had moved to the sitting area.
Three coaches had been set up into a U-shape. In the middle, a square coffee table had been placed. Two hot mugs steamed over it. The clock on the wall ticked by as two men stared at each other. Their beverages laid unforgotten in front of them.
A man in his 50s leaned back. Over time, gray had streaked his blonde hair. His ocean blue eyes dulled compared to their previous vivid color. He had a scowl on his face ever since his office door opened for a visitor. He knew why the business tycoon came here.
That didn't mean he had to like it.
The man had many enemies.
He'd rather not get tangled in that mess.
"The trip from the big city must have been tiring," the Principal began to say, "I hope you're comfortable."
The visitor, the man, the business tycoon… dark brown hair and stunning gray eyes, Ethan Greenwood had come for a favor. If it hadn't been for the sake of his daughter that he loved dearly, he wouldn't be here. He thought if he gave in to her wish, she'll be able to see how much he meant to her. He didn't want to give her away but she wanted to go.
The stubbornness she inherited from her mother proves that much.
In the end, he had been left with no other choice.
"I'm grateful for your time, Parker," he said. His eye wrinkles deepened with age. If not for them, no one would have thought he was in his 30s.
"Of course, Greenwood. I understand this must be hard for you," Principal Parker answered politely, a voice he had mastered over the years. He didn't dare call the visitor by his first name.
He swiped the mug off the table and drank.
"I'm not entirely sure I agree with that, Parker. I doubt your children have given you this kind of trouble," Greenwood remarked. He meant to lighten up the mood but Parker remained displeased.
"Fair point. I haven't been blessed with a daughter."
"Two boys, I heard?"
The Principal nodded in confirmation.
"They must be a handful."
Parker didn't want to think about it. His boys made him worry every day. They hadn't been the same since… since… he shook the thoughts out of his head. It pained him to know that he hadn't been of help for the past years.
That was his wife's specialty and she was gone.
"They do give me a headache" he admitted to that truth.
Greenwood nodded in understanding. He had a feeling that his daughter was the two boys combined when it came to trouble. Not because she wasn't a good girl but because that was what worried him and her mother.
She was too good. The girl was almost a robot. It hurt him to see her spend her days without actually living her life. His wife had convinced him that this was the right thing to do.
But, oh, how it worried him.
"If it's alright with you, Greenwood, I'd like to get to the heart of the matter," Parker's voice broke through his thoughts.
Glancing at the clock, the Principal remembered his scheduled meeting. He needed to get back on track if he didn't want to be late.
"Right" Greenwood cleared his throat and straightened up his spine, "My daughter would like to attend your school."
Parker already knew that.
It confused him when he received the admission papers. The Greenwood Family's only heiress to attend Woodlands Academy? It sounded like a joke. The academy was a simple public school that his deceased wife built before they met. From the ground up, it had earned a favorable reputation.
It was the best school in town but not comparable to prestigious ones in the big city.
She fitted into the latter category better.
Parker set down his mug. What could a girl like that want with his school? As someone who came from the same city, he hadn't even heard of it until his company thought it would be good publicity to help it.
They had sent him to negotiate with the school administration. When he got there, he found a young woman who ran most of the paperwork and told him to stick up his nose in a different charity. She said she didn't need any help from a rich & arrogant bastard who didn't really care about the students.
Next thing Parker knew, he kept coming back.
They built the school together to what it became today. She remained the principal until her body no longer allowed her to. Parker couldn't find it in himself to give it away and decided to run it.
"Yes, I saw the admission papers, Greenwood" Parker rubbed his temples. He kept his patience in check, "What I don't understand is why your daughter will be disguising as a boy to fool the whole school. I do not tolerate dishonesty."
Greenwood started to sweat a little. It truly sounded like a hard bargain to ask but he couldn't give up. His daughter counted on him for once.
"I believe you're aware of my enemies, Parker. I've seen almost every trick in the book that they could use against me. They've involved my family on numerous occasions. My daughter is sick of hiding. She's been cooped up her whole life. She believes that by pretending to be a boy, my enemies won't find her so easily. I can't deny her logic on this."
"I can see your daughter's point" Parker sighed in exasperation, "But the risks of someone finding out still weighs heavily. All that effort would be for nothing the moment she's caught."
"I understand, Parker, and so does she. That is why I came to you. It would be too easy to fabricate documents and have her attend the school under your nose" Greenwood explained with caution. He didn't want their plans to cause alarm.
"But that would be a fool's mistake" he emphasized, "My daughter would make sure she wouldn't be caught, I'm sure, except it won't eliminate all the necessary risks to protect her. I've asked for your time in order for us to come to an agreement."
"What exactly are you saying, Greenwood?" Parker eyed the man curiously. He knew of the rumors about Greenwood and his empire. It did have a bit of dirty work like the news programs reported but Parker had noticed all of them had been merely for defense.
Unless provoked, the man in front of him played fair and square.
He wondered if these circumstances would be an exception.
"I am negotiating to let you and the school staff know of this secrecy" Greenwood felt a sense of relief as he talked, "I'll pay them triple their salary and I'll also have a contract for them to sign. This includes you as well, principal. I hope you understand I have to take extra precautions for this to unfold. Once word goes out that my daughter's secret is found, I would see the responsible parties in court. If that is not enough for you, Parker, I'll also triple your annual funds. The school would be able to give more scholarships and attract more donations."
Greenwood's words gave Parker a headache. He admitted that the man surprised him. He thought Greenwood would threaten him like other businessmen he knew. For that, Greenwood just earned some of his respect. His daughter seemed to be a clever vixen and Parker could clearly see where she got it from.
"Greenwood, you truly live up to rumors about you" Parker said amusingly. He received a chuckle in reply, "I'll have every employee sign your terms and orient them myself about the situation. As a parent, I know where you're coming from and I'll be explicitly clear about the consequences for breaking the contract you've set. I'll be adding my own threats if you don't mind."
"Not at all," Greenwood smiled. The weight on his shoulders had been lifted. He couldn't wait to tell his daughter the news.
Parker stood up and held out his hand, "I'll be looking forward to welcoming your daughter for her first day of freshman year."
"Please take care of her, Parker" Greenwood followed his example, shaking the outstretched hand.
The Principal gave the hand a squeeze before letting it go, "I will."
He remained standing while Greenwood walked out of the office. The discussion went better than he thought. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad after all. He wondered what kind of person Greenwood's daughter was? For her father to pull these strings for her?
When the business tycoon held the door knob, he paused.
At the sight of this, Parker became confused. Did something happen?
Slowly, Greenwood turned to face him and said…
"There is one more thing…"