Everyone came to him for advice and to vent about something. Perhaps it was because he was easy to talk to and most of the young people didn’t feel comfortable talking to other adults, least of all their parents. Or perhaps, it was because he was the Guidance Counselor at Sunnyside High School.
Most of the time, they visited him in his office before or after school or during lunch. He was very flexible and was willing to meet at the times which best fitted into the student’s schedule. There were the odd times when they met at his home and his girlfriend, Alanis was always there when he had appointments with the female students, just to be on the safe side.
Today, he was baby-sitting his three year old niece, Emily, Jennifer’s little sister. Jennifer was eighteen and no longer living at home. Jennifer and her parents weren’t on speaking terms because she had gotten pregnant a couple of weeks before she graduated from high-school. She wasn’t going to college as they had discussed. Instead, she was going to take care of her baby. She figured that when she was ready, she could always get a job working. She was living with her boyfriend, Rick who was ten years her senior and working as a manager at a manufacturing company. There wasn’t any talk about marriage so far.
This afternoon he was supposed to meet with Shiloh at his home but a half-hour ago, Alanis had called to say that something had come up and she wouldn’t be able to come over. He tried to reach Shiloh on her cell to reschedule but there wasn’t any answer. He tried her at her home but had the same result. When the answering machine kicked in, he left a message. Emily was in the living-room playing when the doorbell rang. He went and answered it. And there was Shiloh, standing on the doorstep, wearing a grey shiny top with a pink top over it and a black skirt. She smiled up at him. “Hi, Mr. Gladstone,” she said brightly.
“Hi, Shiloh. I guess you didn’t get my message.”
She frowned. “What message?”
“I tried your cell and then I called your home and left a message.”
“I was on the train when you called. I can’t get reception when I’m in the subway and I never think of calling home to check for messages. Why, is this a bad time?”
“Well, usually another adult is here when a female student comes to my home for counseling but she couldn’t make it today so I was calling to reschedule but since you’re here, we might as well keep the appointment. Come in.” He stepped aside for her to go in. “I’m afraid I have my hands full with my niece. She’s due for her nap in a little while so I hope you don’t mind us talking in the living-room until I put her down.”
“No, I don’t mind.” She followed him into the living-room and laughed when she saw Emily. “Hi, there,” she said, going over to her.
“Hi,” the little girl replied, smiling up at her.
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Shiloh. It’s nice to meet you, Emily.”
Shiloh got down on her knees. “What’s that you have there?”
“Oh, you made a tree. That’s really cool. Can I make something too?”
Emily nodded and gave her some of the play dough. “What you making?”
“I’m going to make Butterfly wings and bear paws.”
He watched them, impressed with Shiloh. She was a natural with kids. Perhaps it was because she was young too. “While you are busy with Emily and the play dough, I’ll be in the study. I’ll check in and see how you two are doing in about twenty minutes or so.”
Shiloh smiled up at him. “Sure.”
Half hour later, he went back into the living-room and was surprised to find only Shiloh sitting on the floor. “Where’s Emily?” he asked, trying to ignore the fact that the way she was sitting, it caused her skirt to ride up and expose her legs.
“She’s in the bedroom sleeping. She started yawning and rubbing her eyes so I asked her if she wanted to take her nap. She said yes and so, I followed her to the guest room where there’s an inflatable toddler bed, I tucked her in and gave her the teddy bear.”
He went and checked on Emily. “She’s fast asleep,” he said. “We went to the playground earlier and she was like the energizer bunny, running up and down. I don’t need to go to the gym when I have her.”
Shiloh laughed. “She’s a sweet kid.”
“You were very good with her.”
“I like kids and they like me.”
“You’re welcome to come and play with Emily anytime she’s here.”
“Thanks.” She liked the idea very much.
When they were in the study, he settled back in the chair behind the desk, his eyes intent on her as she sat in the chair opposite him. “Now, tell me, how are things at home? The last time we spoke you said that there were troubling tensions between your parents which were beginning to affect your studies.”
“Well, since we last spoke, my parents have worked things out. I think it had to do with them going to see the pastor for counseling.”
“And your studies?”
“I’m doing well again. My grades are back up from A- to As and A+.”
“Good. Keep it up and you’ll graduate with honors.”
They talked for about two hours and then, it was time for Shiloh to leave. “Emily should be awake in the next hour or so,” he said as they walked to the door.
“Please say goodbye to her for me.”
“I will. If you need to talk again, come me and we’ll set up an appointment.”
“Did you mean it when you said I could come by here again and play with Emily any time she’s here?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Great.” She smiled. Seeing Emily meant seeing him too. “Goodbye, Mr. Gladstone.”
“Goodbye, Shiloh.” He watched as she ran down the steps, turned, waved and headed down the sidewalk towards the bus-stop to wait for the bus which would take her to the subway. The house seemed different now that she was gone. He closed the door and leaned against it. He had to be honest with himself. Inviting her to come over sometimes when Emily was there was purely for his benefit. He liked Shiloh and enjoyed her company. Where was the harm in that?