August 20th, 2009
As much as I’d hoped life would be all sunshine and rainbows after the harrowing conclusion to Laska’s outburst and Eralia’s outpouring, things weren’t quite so easy. Sure some of the tension between the two eased and Laska actually could have a conversation with Eralia that didn’t involve my daughter staring at her as if trying to bore a hole through her face, their relationship could still best be described as ‘rocky.’
I could imagine them getting along eventually, but more importantly Laska’s icy attitude towards me had thawed. Instead of the stand-offish teenager was she was veering off on, she’d come back to the warm, cuddly girl I’d known since a kitten – at least, in flashes and pieces here and there. Such as when, out of the blue, she began chatting with me about some of her school troubles, and ended our little talk with a hug.
Speaking of her school life, Laska was on the upswing, if only academically. Her grades still weren’t great, but she’d managed to drag them out of the pits they’d fallen into by the time the school year ended. Socially things were stagnant as ever, but at least she had Zoe; those two were inseparable, even if they didn’t have classes together.
Heading into the summer and the end of seventh grade, I got all the usual concerns from new teachers about her shyness and disinterest in school. Same old song and dance, and by now I’d gotten quite good at performing it.
I explained how Laska didn’t read, watch, or listen to all the same things as her classmates. She wore loose, baggy clothes and did little to neaten herself up, in contrast to the other girls, even Zoe, who were definitely started to experiment and flaunt their sex appeal and work far too hard at ‘fitting in.’ She was simply different, and when kids become adolescents, being different is a fast-track to becoming a pariah.
There was a lot of ‘Yes, but…” going on from the teachers’ ends, but they only ever brought up concerns and did little to provide solutions. Made me wonder how I ever got through public schooling. Still, everything was improving, bit by bit.
Other than the slow and steady rebuild of our relationship and things with Eralia, there wasn’t much to say about the rest of the year. About the only major highlight of the summer was the expansion of our garage to accommodate all of Eralia’s motorcycles and tools. Which, of course, Laska was all too eager to ogle.
Of course, it was only when I was getting nice and comfortable with the idea that all was going to be smooth sailing and there wouldn’t be any more drama then did reality smack me upside the head. That particular smack came from Eralia.
Looking back, she had to have the patience of a saint to put up with me. And, even saints have their limits, as I discovered when she forced me out of the cozy comfort of familiarity and good wholesome parenting.
We were together in bed; I was watching TV, she was reading. She licked a finger, flipped a page and began as if she were asking me what was for dinner tomorrow. “Don’t you think it’s a problem Laska’s still a virgin?”
I thought I’d heard her wrong, but no matter how I tried to process what she’d said, it always came back with the same result. “What?”
She continued without missing a beat, no doubt having anticipated how I’d react, yet still held her magazine open. “She’s 14, you know. At that age I wanted to have sex with anything that had a pulse, and Laska’s no different.”
“Oh come on,” I said, making a face like I’d just been asked to muck out a cow stall. Bare-handed. “Do we really need to talk about this?”
Eralia tipped her reading glasses down her nose and looked at me across the top of them – her serious face she reserved for such special occasions. “Yes, we do. I know you don’t want to think of Laska like that, but sex is part of anyone’s well-being – especially at her age when she’s still developing.”
“I guess, but why do I need to know about it?” I said, doing my best to avoid meeting those piercing red eyes of hers. “How do you know that anyways?”
“Zoe and Laska talk about all kinds of things, you know,” Eralia said, tilting her head slightly. “I may have overheard a few things…”
“Aren’t you a little old to be eavesdropping?” I said, making an attempt to turn the tables on her and away from the most unpleasant of topics.
My plan to go on the offensive was thwarted by a mere look; she knew well what I was trying to do. “You’re never too old to be concerned. Yes I know it’s hard, but the sooner you accept it the easier it’ll be in the longer run.”
“I don’t think it’ll ever be easier,” I said with a defeated sigh. Laska having sex. How could I ever get used to that thought? It wasn’t just the notion of the act that bothered me, but I couldn’t see her seducing some poor boy. Which, as I reflected on that thought, was probably the heart of the problem. “Why’d you bring this up anyways?”
“Because we need to do something about it.”
Something? I didn’t like where she was going with this. “Like what?”
“Well, take a look at this,” she said, handing me the magazine she was reading. It was opened to an article headlined with “Top Teen Hookup Spots in MGC.”
“What the hell is this?” Flipping it over to get a look at the cover, it was some young adult mag, appropriately titled “Teen MG.” “Why the hell are you reading this?”
“Research material, of course,” Eralia said, putting on an innocent face. “Gotta keep up on the latest trends, you know – Anyways, go on, read it,” she said, prying it from my hands to flip it back to the article and thrust it back at me.
“Fine,” I grumbled.
Scanning through the article that was far longer than an article with that name had any right to be, it went on about all the locations where teenagers tended to gather for… casual encounters. Maybe it was just because of my upbringing, but I couldn’t imagine such things being condoned. Yet, here it was; was I really that out of touch?
“So what, you want me to drive her to one of these or something?”
“What? Of course not,” Eralia said with confusion at first, then laughed. “And no, not me either.”
If it wasn’t either of us, “Then who?”
Stealing the magazine away from me she rolled it up and smacked me on the shoulder. “Who do you think? Her best friend!”
“Hey, that’s abuse,” I said, making a pained expression and rubbing my wounded shoulder.
“What’s abuse is that poor girl all wound up without any relief.” Eralia tapped me with her rolled up bludgeon again.
Despite the onslaught of domestic violence, I managed to stay the course. “How do you even know Zoe’ll go for it?”
“Because she goes to them herself. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind taking Laska along if I asked,” Eralia said, finally ceasing her beatings.
I was about to ask how she knew that, but I had a feeling she knew that the same way as she knew Laska’s… purity. “Then how come she’s never taken Laska before?”
“Probably because Laska’s never asked,” Eralia said, closing her eyes and cracking her neck. “And knowing Zoe, she didn’t want to make Laska feel forced.”
So, there it was – the big plan. Eralia asks Zoe to drag my daughter along, some… casual encounters happen, and then what? They’re just scratching an itch? Would she wind up bringing a boy home? No, I couldn’t really see that happening; couldn’t see or didn’t want? Moreover, somehow our conversation had boiled down to me saying “Yes, I want my daughter to have sex,” or declining, with the implications that brought.
And all this not long after I discovered she wanted to engage in rather… intimate relations with me. But, Eralia had said she was likely going for me due to lack of options and direction. Didn’t make much sense, yet somehow it did. Was it what Laska really wanted? Was my hesitance due to my own unwillingness to see Laska as a woman in her own right?
Thankfully Eralia gave me all the time I needed to writhe and make all the pained faces a person could.
“Fine, whatever,” I said, burying my face in a pillow to hide my shame and seek a little solace from the world. “If it makes her happy…”
A big soft paw pat me on the back, accompanied by Eralia’s soothing, motherly voice. “You’re making the right decision, she needs to figure out these things while she’s still young.”
“If you say so,” I mumbled. In just a handful of words, I felt like I’d set in motion the kind of thing that would change my entire world. And maybe, not just mine.
Not too long after, not even two weeks, Zoe had come around to take Laska on a “Girl’s night out.” Eralia sure worked fast. All it took was a little chatting, some suggestive winks and whispers here and there to Zoe, who’d come to be as tall as I was, and they were gone. Along with my daughter’s innocence. Eralia did her best to comfort me, with sweet words about how I was doing the right thing, but it was one of those epoch moments: The day my little girl became a woman. Absolutely terrifying.
So, imagine my surprise then when, while I was lamenting growing old and the loss of youth, the duo arrived when the night was still young. Laska shuffled in awkwardly, hints of red adorning her cheeks. Zoe was red as well, though she looked more defeated as she rested a hand on Laska’s shoulder.
“Sorry,” Laska mumbled, spending most of her time gazing at her paws.
“It’s okay,” Zoe said, adding a few pats.
All sorts of questions raced through my mind, but I sort of had a feeling things didn’t go quite as expected. The relief brought about by that gut feeling was also tinged with a bit of guilt.
Zoe and Eralia shared a sort of look that I couldn’t pin down. “You two are back early,” Eralia said. “Something happen?”
Making the pained face of someone who wasn’t very good at keeping secrets yet had a most important secret to keep, Zoe put all she had into a nonchalant shrug. “N-nothing much,” she said, forcing a smile.
Laska wasn’t much better in passing off a lie. “We just got, uh, a little tired and, you know, things were kinda boring, so we decided to call it a night,” she said, speaking just a little too quickly to be natural.
“Oh, I see,” Eralia said, graciously following along in their deceit. “Aren’t you two too young to be getting tired so early in the evening?”
Scratch the graciously part.
“Well, if you two want I don’t mind if you hang out in Laska’s room. You guys’ve still got all night,” I said, wanting to appear every bit the casual dad. Of course, right after I said that I had to give myself a mental smack on the forehand seeing as how they just did whatever anyways because I never cared. Really, I just made it obvious I knew they were lying.
Based on the fact that Laska refused to make eye contact with me and burned a deeper shade of crimson, that wasn’t going to happen.
“No, no,” Laska said, shaking her head and holding up her paws. “I’m just gonna go to bed! I’m really super tired!” The added, forced laughter only made this whole situation an even bigger charade than it already was. Everyone was lying to each other, everyone knew it, but no one wanted to call it out. Kind of amusing, really.
Zoe kind of stood there doing nothing for a moment until an epiphany flashed on her face and she stretched out and made the most hilariously exaggerated yawn I’ve ever seen. “Yeah, I’m tired too! Okay, bye!”
“Bye!” Laska said, then added a quiet “Sorry again…”
In the blink of an eye they separated, Laska dashing up the stairs and Zoe out the front door. Dying to know what had really gone down, Eralia wasn’t so quick to let the wolf go. I wanted to know as well, but I also didn’t. Waffling between choices, I elected for the choice along the lines knowledge is power, however painful and awkward it may be.
Rather than inside where Laska might hear us, we cornered the wolf outside before she could make her escape. Eralia was quick on the draw, asking the ever-obvious question soon as the door clicked shut. “So, what happened? And don’t give me anything about how nothing happened.”
Zoe gulped. “I, I don’t know if I should…”
Already she was so close to fracturing, spilling her secrets. From experience, I knew just the sort of pressure to apply. “Zoe, you can trust us. I just want to know what happened for her own sake. I’m her dad, after all.”
She bit her lip on one side, winding herself all up and twisting in place. “Laska struck out real bad,” she blurt out.
“Oh? How bad?” Eralia said, leaning in close to the morally conflicted wolf.
“I tried introducing her to some boys I already knew,” Zoe said, wringing her hands together. By “knew,” I assumed only one thing in that regard. Well, at least she could vouch for them personally; just gotta look for the bright spots, right? “But that ended… Badly…”
“Yes? Go on.” Eralia was ruthless, about an inch away from actually prodding Zoe along.
“The first guy we tried, she spilled her drink on him, then when she panicked and tried to dry it off she wound up punching him in the dick and headbutt his chest and they both fell over…” The pain on her face as she recalled the events was palatable and I could picture the scene so very clearly it made me feel embarrassed for my poor Laska.
Eralia just face-palmed, groaning into her paw. “That poor girl…”
But it wasn’t over. That was just the tip of the iceberg. I learned how Laska then went on to try and pick up another guy, only to corner the lad with some kind of never-ending monologue about how she really, really liked motorcycles. Zoe wound up having to peel her away, for both their sakes. Several more attempts went by with an equal measure of success, including one where Laska thought on trying to avoid too many words and just tried to force the guy’s hand down her pants to signal her interest.
I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. Pacing back and forth, hands sometimes crossed in front of my chest and sometimes behind my head as I stared up at the stars. Eralia held a paw to cover her gaping mouth like she was witnessing a horrible, gruesome accident in slow motion, just out of reach to be able to save the poor soul involved.
There was one more thing that happened. “But then,” Zoe said, but her voice died in her throat and she shook her head just enough to get the tips of her ears jostling back and forth.
“And then?” I said, unable to bring my morbid curiosity to heel.
This time, she was adamant. “She, I… No, I can’t,” she said in a squeak, stamping her foot down. Her bushy tail poofed out and went rigid, capitalizing her stance. “I really can’t!”
“I… that’s fine,” I said, coming to the realization that if Zoe was having this much difficulty, it must be dire. They were both safe and sound, so I could let it slide – besides, she’d probably let it slip sooner or later. As it was, I had enough ammunition to embarrass Laska half to death someday when she was older. “You can go, I’m done with the interrogation,” I added with a smirk.
Relief spread across the wolf’s face and all her ruffled fur settled. “Sorry,” she muttered, “Goodnight!”
With that she scampered off, mounting her bicycle and peddling off into the night behind our house.
“Now isn’t that peculiar,” Eralia said, arms crossed and head tilted in thought as we went back inside.
“What do you mean?” I asked, tossing a glance up the stairs. I could just imagine Laska all balled up under her sheets, burning crimson from embarrassment. Knowing she hadn’t gone through with anything was a great relief, and maybe it was just because I knew Zoe for so much longer, but nothing about what she said struck me as odd.
Eralia’s ears came up and focused on me, along with the rest of her. “Really, you don’t find anything suspicious about that? How she got real elusive at the end there?”
I shrugged. “Not really. Maybe she’s just getting better at keeping a secret?”
I didn’t quite think I deserved the long arc her eyes made from one side to the other, but at least the little grin she sported made her reaction a little less accusing. “Something definitely happened.”
“That’s not what Zoe said,” I said, coming to the wolf’s defense. Perhaps a little too quickly.
“And you trust teenage girls?” With that, Eralia’s grin had transformed into full-on shit-eating with an extra helping of smug.
She did have a point, but I was quick to quash any thoughts that might’ve damaged the image of Laska in my mind. “Sure, I trust Laska completely. She might… hide some things, but that’s to be expected.” Right?
“Hmm,” Eralia hummed, as if appraising me. Always made me feel a little on edge when she did that. Finally her suspicion broke, as if she foresaw where the conversation was headed and gave up before it began – instead she pursued another angle. “Are you ready for when she tries it again?”
I hadn’t thought that far ahead. In fact, I was hoping she’d just wash her hands of it – and while I was pretty sure she would, I couldn’t say if it was just wishful thinking. “If what Zoe said is true, I can’t really imagine her trying again,” I said, cringing on Laska’s behalf. “Sounded pretty bad.”
“Oh?” Eralia cocked a brow. “You think Laska’s going to just give up like that?”
“What? No, I…” I trailed off, mouth hanging open as the realization I’d just stumbled into her trap dawned on me.
Her tail swished once, the predator staring down her prey, waiting for it to make its move.
“Laska’s still got plenty of time to figure things out,” I said, answering with the best non-answer I could come up with. “Just might take her a while.”
Hopefully it’d be a very long while. When she’d grown up and moved out. And finished college. And had a steady, well-paying job.
The look of disappointment on her face signaled I’d managed to evade her trap well-enough. Either that or she just couldn’t muster the energy. “It might not take as long as you think,” she said, part warning and part resignation. Then, with a poke to my chest, she added “And don’t you dare ignore this.”
Shit. She was going to hound me to talk to Laska about what happened, and lying wasn’t going to do any good. What was I even to do, pop my daughter on the shoulder and say “Better luck next time?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said with a sigh.