It took a while to summon my courage to confront – no, ask – Laska about what’d happened. Once I’d resolved myself that I could handle it, I marched straight up the stairs, held my hand out to knock on her door, and then marched straight back down the stairs and flopped onto the couch.
“I can’t believe you!” Eralia said, giving me one of her nasty looks.
“I still think it’s being too nosy,” I said in my defense. “If she wants to tell me she will, last thing I need her to think is I’m trying to pry into everything she does.”
“Being concerned or interested about what she’s doing isn’t nosy. Would you rather she think you don’t care at all?”
“Going up to her room is like, interrogating her. I don’t want her to feel cornered is all.”
For once I managed to hit on an argument that gave my lover pause. I could see her coming up with things to say, only for them to die in their throat. Finally she conceded her defeat with a small sigh. “Sorry for being pushy,” she said, sliding down into the couch to join me in my slacker slump.
“Apology accepted,” I said, shuffling closer, getting just close enough to breathe out on one of her ears without making it seem like it was intentional. Though after the second flick of her ear she figured out my game and pounced.
“Don’t you go getting all high and mighty on me now,” she said, touching her nose to mine.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I said with a wink and stealing a kiss.
While I didn’t want to pry per se, I was still a little curious. Rather than go to her room, I’d just ask casual-like in the morning.
August 21st, 2009
Morning came and went along with my hope that Laska’s sleep schedule would, at some point, stay somewhat regular. Wasn’t until one in the afternoon she finally stumbled into the kitchen.
Hair a mess, wrinkled pajamas, rubbing at her still-sleepy eyes, Laska was truly a picture of grace and poise. Just like Eralia, even down to the way she scratched herself without a care in the world as she perused the cabinets and fridge for food.
Wasn’t until she opened and closed every door she finally noticed my existence at the kitchen table, paying the last of the bills.
“Hi dad, what’s for breakfast?”
I should’ve known. “Breakfast would’ve been hours ago. Hell, you’re pushing past lunch as it is.”
Her expression soured before morphing into a yawn as she stretched out so very much like a cat. What I’d give to have that kind of flexibility, or even just my flexibility from ten years ago. “So what’s for lunch?” She said with a sleepy, lop-sided grin.
“The first words out of your mouth when you see me are to ask for food,” I said, shaking my head.
“Hey, I said hi first!”
“Oh, how could I forget such touching words from my sweet, caring daughter?”
Laska rolled her eyes at my theatrics of falling back in my chair and holding a hand over my chest. “Dad, come on, I just… really like your cooking, that’s all,” she said sweetly.
I cocked a brow at her. “Nice try. I think you can make something yourself, you know how to cook.”
“Yeah, but I’m laaaazzyyy…” Laska’s whole body slumped down while her face scrunched up like I’d asked her to cook a seven-course meal by herself.
I damn near said she shouldn’t be feeling tired and lazy at fourteen in a very dad-like way, but I managed to stop myself in time. If there was one thing positive from Eralia forcing me to read all her silly articles about this and that, it was they helped me to remember all the shit I went through growing up. Teenagers were just meant to be lazy, I suppose. Still, not that I was going to let her off the hook and bounce up to make something for her.
“Then I guess you’ll just have to wait until dinner.”
She just scowled at me and made another round through the fridge, finally dredging out some lunch meats.
Well, since she was in such a great mood, I figured no time like the present. Shuffling some papers around, I decided on the most tactful approach. “So how about last night?” I added a smile for effect, because hey, why not. Apparently, based on the look I got in return, it must’ve been the most sarcastic thing she’d ever seen.
“What about it?” she said, applying mustard to her bread with what could only be taken as annoyance. Perhaps this wasn’t the best time after all. But, onward I trekked.
“Just curious about how things went, since you seemed a bit rushed last night.”
“Why do you care?” The venom in her voice was unmistakable. From what Zoe had said it didn’t seem like anything beyond being an awkward teenager, though to her it must’ve been the worst embarrassment possible.
“I was your age once, you know. Whatever you’ve done, I’m sure I’ve got you beat,” I said, trailing off in a self-deprecating laugh.
“Oh, like what?” Laska’s tail gave a quick flick as she assembled the last of her sandwich.
“Well,” I said, tilting my head in thought. So many wonderful memories to choose from, had to pick something at least a little related. Not that narrowing down my search did much to reduce the results. “When I was about your age, I had a girl ask me to a school dance. Just me trying to answer yes was horrifying enough to watch,” I said, wincing from all the emotions bubbling up. Time may have dulled the feelings from back then, but even still I wanted to just lay down and disappear. “Class had just ended and it took me so off guard I kept walking while I stared at her – and promptly knocked over a desk and fell over myself.”
Laska’s cheeks came up and her lips pulled taut in that face people make when they can physically feel your emotional languish. “Ouch.”
“But that’s not the worst part,” I said, taking a deep breath and a long blink. “At the dance I was so nervous I couldn’t say a word, and that werewolf whose name I can’t even remember – think it started with a D – was clearly getting fed up with me. So, she made a last ditch play and just hauled me to the dance floor. Now, all night they had been doing something where they’d shine two spotlights on someone, give them a chance to show off…”
Laska brought a paw to her face in horror. She knew how this was going to end. Not that it stopped a shit-eating grin from appearing behind her paw. “They picked you?”
“The second we got out there,” I said, cracking my knuckles to give my hands something to do. “So I did what any young man with his heart aflutter would do – with all eyes on us, I shook her hand off, blurted out “I don’t want to do this!” and ran off, leaving her stunned. Afterwards I was made out to the villain and was never asked out again.”
“That’s… wow,” Laska chewed on her bottom lip, “I bet you got teased a lot after that.”
“Don’t you know it. So yes Laska, dear old dad has had his fair share of troubles with romance,” I said with a handful of butterflies fluttering anew in my stomach.
The whole time Laska had been hanging on attentively, and now that my story was done, she set her plate down at the table across from me and took a seat. “What other juicy stories you got?” She said, chomping away at her lunch like a starved animal.
“I could tell you all kinds of things, but,” I said, giving her a devilish grin. “Story for a story.”
“Aw, that’s no fun,” Laska said with a little pout.
I began to turn my attention back to the laptop, though I made a little display of doing so. “Oh well, and here I was hoping to tell you all about the embarrassing things I did…”
To deal with a teenager, I had to act like one. Then again, did I ever not?
“But it’s reeeaally embarrassing, and I don’t know…” Laska touched the tips of her crumb-laden digits together. I just looked at her and shrugged, then picked up a bit of paper and gave it a good snap.
“Daaaaaaad!” Laska protested by stretching herself out and sprawled on the table, resting her cheek on the cool surface. Our eyes met for a moment. “Fine! It was awful, Zoe introduced me to some guys…”
“So far I’m not seeing what’s awful,” I said, making a point to interrupt her. She always did seem to become a little more forthcoming when annoyed. A little sneaky or devious of me, sure, but I did what I had to.
“Hey, let me finish!”
“Sorry, go on…”
Her little snort blew her napkin a short distance, adding to my amusement. “…I spilled a drink on a guy then punched him… down there, when I tried to help clean it up.”
So far that meshed with what I already knew, and so did everything else she said. To my surprise she even mentioned the part of her trying to force a guy’s hand in her pants. Fortunately I was able to keep my dad face on and didn’t try to make a joke.
Which got me thinking for a moment – I could actually crack a joke about my daughter’s, well, sexuality. Maybe I was more mature than I thought. Or maybe I was just so immature I couldn’t handle it any other way. Parenting is hard.
“At least you’ve got something to learn from,” I said with a chuckle as she reached the same finishing point as Zoe. “Next time you won’t be so tense.”
“Maybe, I dunno, maybe that kinda thing just isn’t for me,” Laska said quietly, having buried her face within her arms on the table. Made it difficult to hear what exactly she was talking about, but I managed.
“It’s possible, but that’s why you gotta get out there and try things, right?”
I figured my comment was innocuous enough, very reasonable and safe advice. Practical, too, as I’d come to realize since adopting her. Her ears flicked and swiveled and her head came up; Laska’s eyes had a serious edge to them, like she was searching me. “You really mean it’s okay to… try things?”
“Sure,” I said, unsure of how I should respond to her sudden seriousness. “I didn’t for the longest time and it just made me miserable and boring. If you find something you like, great, if not, oh well.”
Laska looked away, taking time to consider her words. “But what if what I like is different?”
Now we were heading into territory that was decidedly concerning, if only because of the tone she was taking. “Different how? Mind if I ask what it is you like?”
Conflict raged across her features for several seconds before she suddenly shot up, plate in paw. “Never mind, it’s nothing,” she said, scampering towards the sink to rinse her dish clean.
“Really, it’s nothing dangerous, don’t worry,” she said with forced, nervous laughter. “Anyways, since I told you, you’ll tell me something else, right?”
I didn’t like how she changed her mind like that. Zoe got the same way when she reached the end of the line. Those two were up to something, but wouldn’t say what. Had they gone somewhere else, got mixed up in something? Drugs, maybe, but neither of them seemed to be any different last night. My plan had run its course and I doubted I was going to get anything more from Laska.
Still, I told her another embarrassing morsel, a lovely story of how I got pantsed by a friend while we were presenting a project. Sadly, despite the trauma I had to relive, Laska did little more than share a laugh on my behalf. Perhaps expense.
“Your turn,” I said, doing my best to avoid slamming my forehead into the table.
“I uh… look at the time! I’ll tell you later, but I’ve got so much homework to do!” And like the wind, Laska vanished from the room before I could even say a word.
While I wanted to be insulted, and really was, it got me even more curious than before. Just what had she done, and presumably, liked?
Before I could return to the task of paying the rest of the bills, a shadowy figure appeared in the doorway like the specter of death itself.
“Oh no,” I muttered, recoiling in fear. “You were listening, weren’t you?”
“Me? Eavesdropping? The nerve,” Eralia said, waltzing into the kitchen wearing her afternoon best – a loose t-shirt and panties. “I just happened to hear about how some girls blushed and others snickered when they saw your dick. You should’ve gone after the blushers.” With a grin from the devil herself she leered at me.
“That was a father-daughter conversation, thank you very much,” I shot back, crossing my arms across my chest. “And why is it I’m the only one who bothers to put on clean clothes on the afternoon?”
Propping a paw on her hip and thrusting said hip in my direction, Eralia did her best to put on her ‘sexy’ face. All things considered, proved more amusing than sexy. “Because I make anything look good.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Hey, that’s mean,” she said in mock hurt, ears and tail drooping. “You’re such a bully.”
Couldn’t help but laugh at that one. “Says the biggest bully in the house. If we were ten you’d make me eat spiders to show how much you love me.”
“Is that what I’ve been doing wrong all this time?” Eralia said, eyes wide open in surprise.
I just sighed at her and her usual grin returned. “So did you get anything new out of her?”
“Not really, but those two did something they don’t want to talk about. Whatever it is, Laska liked it,” I said, determined to get those stupid bills paid so I could do something else.
“Something we should be worried about?” Eralia asked, leaning back against the countertop.
“Nah, I don’t think so. Whatever it is, I think it’s just gonna have to be a secret between them.”
“Oh, I see,” Eralia said. She tried to play it off, but I could tell – she was going to do some digging of her own. Well, whatever, so long as she didn’t try to involve me in it.
September 12th, 2009
An ordinary day at the motocross track, insomuch as ordinary was for the three of us. Women were a rare enough sight in these places, let alone actually riding out there. And there I was, with two of them, playing the role of pit caretaker.
We hadn’t been going to the track all that long, all things considered, but one thing that stuck out in my mind was Laska. Well, not to say she always didn’t have a place in my mind, but the trackside always got me curious.
When we first really started going to events packed with other people, Laska would always cling to me when she wasn’t out riding. Had to practically hold her paw everywhere, not that I particularly minded, but back then it really made me wonder if she’d really enjoy it as much as she seemed to.
Of course, my worries were put to rest as in each event, she got a little more bold, a little more adventurous and even chatty. Watching her across the way while I kept under the shade of my pop-up canopy, she blended in with a group of people ranging from just a few years older to her to double or more. She’d chat about this or that, laugh, and basically got on well.
For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Zoe was still her only friend. What about school made her unable to make friends? Or even why hadn’t she tried to get a bit closer to people in the circle she now stood? Most of them were local enough, but I suppose the age difference was just too great.
“She gets on well, doesn’t she?”
Unbeknownst to me, a shifty jackal had crept in and watched me watching Laska. I looked up at her, looming over me, and she just grinned. But, before I could say anything a bead of sweat dripped off her nose and hit me square on the forehead.
“Egh, that’s gross,” I said, wiping my face off with my sleeve.
Eralia gave me one of those exasperated, sarcastic looks. “You’re going to call that gross after all I’ve dripped on you?” As she always did, she added a little wink to her words whenever she ventured down that particular topic. The bulky leathers and armor she wore concealed most of her figure, sweat matted down her hair and fur. So, as always, her attempt at being provocative fell just a little flat.
“One is love and the other is sweating onto someone, so yes, one of those could be considered gross.”
“Well then,” she said, bending over to kiss me, making sure to rub her face sweat all over me for good measure even as I recoiled in horror, “I’ll just have to make it about love!”
“Gross!” Laska said, making the sort of face one would expect from a daughter discovering her father being accosted in the name of sweaty love.
“What, you too?” Eralia said, putting both paws on her hips. “There’s nothing gross about love, you know.”
“Yes there is,” Laska and I said in unison, sharing a smile. I wasn’t sure if I should keep humoring her for as old as she was, but getting back at Eralia was all the reason I needed.
Eralia just rolled her eyes. Laska fished around in a cooler for a bottle of water and slammed the entire thing in moments before melting into one of the lawn chairs. “Hot out there, huh?”
For the past week we’d been having temperatures far above normal, and I was sweating even while sitting in the shade with a fan pointed at me. I didn’t know how those two girls, or anyone else, could stand it – though I guess this being the last practice day before their big race counted for their willingness to be all hot and disgusting. So, considering the heat and that I wasn’t racing, I elected to have an off day to make packing up at the end of the day easier.
“You have no idea! I mean, it’s September already, it should be cool!” Laska said as she wriggled about, shimmying out of her armor and leathers.
The part I always hated about all this. Laska, like Eralia, wore an undergarment to wick away all the sweat and keep her cool. The tight, stretchy one-piece of spandex left little to the imagination. At least after the first time she wore one, she’d made sure to wear panties ever since.
I threw a pained glance at Eralia, my savior-to-be, and in an instant she understood my pain and gave me the barest of squeezes on my shoulder. But, she was not to remain and provide a suitable distraction to aid me in my hour of need.
“I’m gonna head back out for a bit,” she said, donning her helmet. She had to gently tuck her ears down and back across her head and then carefully wiggle the protective gear on. Supposedly it wasn’t as uncomfortable as it looked, which I guess could make sense seeing as how the same was done for my ears – more or less. Laska’s was much the same, though her wider, more triangular ears required a different set of reliefs. No worries about wearing the wrong helmet there.
Gloves on, she walked back out into the blazing sun and lifted her bike off its stand. Kicking it to life, she took off towards the entrance to the course.
“Having fun out there?” I said after a period of silence.
Laska had reclined back in the chair, a rag soaked in ice water on her forehead. “Yeah, even though it’s super hot. You know, we gotta try ice riding sometime.”
“Ice, huh? Maybe, assuming you keep your grades up.”
“What? Why? What do grades have to do with anything,” Laska said in that annoyed teenager way.
“You know the rules. I don’t expect you to get straight A’s or anything, but your education is important,” I said, twining my fingers together over my chest to complete the serious face.
“So what do I need? B’s?”
This was the tough part. I’d always avoided giving her something specific because I knew she’d work to achieve that mark and no better. Keeping it ambiguous, I hoped, would prevent that, though I did acknowledge it probably felt unfair to her. “Depends. Just pay attention and do your homework and you’ll make the cut-off.”
Laska just scowled at me. “You could at least give me a mark to hit…”
“What’d be the fun in that?”
Try as she might, Laska couldn’t keep her scowl up while I had my best dad-grin on. Idle chit-chat resumed, which included me badgering her to keep hydrated. Last thing I needed was Laska passing out or having an accident because she didn’t drink enough.
So the rest of the day went, Laska and Eralia going out in short stints, coming in to cool off, and back out. Despite the fact those two wouldn’t be racing in the same class, or even that Eralia was in the expert group, it was hard to miss the way Laska looked at Eralia when they set off together – and it was always just a coincidence when that happened.
Near the end of the day one of the little gatherings congregated in our area. They’d acknowledge me in passing, but of course they were there to talk to Laska and ogle Eralia. Or both of them, a couple of the guys did still look to be 17 or 18 at the oldest. They thought they may have been slick, stealing glances here and there in between discussion from the heat – a favorite topic – to riding techniques and whatever else, but I knew.
Which, in a way, was kind of unnerving because I did my best to not pay attention or look. Which probably just made me focus in whatever they were doing all the more.
I swallowed my pride as father and boyfriend; I knew if either of them had a problem with the glances they’d say something about it. Eralia especially. It was also just part of growing up, I think. Hell, even now my eyes’d wander if the sight was there for the taking.
What really got my attention was an offhand mention of Laska’s scars. Immediately I got all amped and ready to Dad out like no dad had ever done before, but a quick jab from Eralia brought me to my senses.
“How’d you get those scars, anyways? Accident?”
I thought for sure Laska would get all… distressed, but she just shrugged. “Yeah, an accident, but it was when I was real little.”
“Oh, damn, well they’re pretty cool.”
“Yeah,” another guy chimed in, “they make you look all tough and shit. You should tell people you got ‘em in a fight or something!”
Laska gave the guy a sidelong glance. “Anything that could’ve left scars like this probably would’ve killed me…”
“Well, you know… still, beats this,” the guy said, showing off a tiny mark on his forearm. “All I got is this from when I tried to use a torch…”
In an instant it became a show and tell with scars, going so far as to have one guy drop his pants to show off an ass cheek and comment how he sat on a tack strip. Laska seemed far too interested in getting herself an eye full for my comfort. Just when I thought it wouldn’t get any worse than that, Eralia had to storm over and show off her stomach – which went over well for more than one reason, I’m sure.
Thinking back to earlier in the day, I just couldn’t reconcile the image of Laska in front of me, laughing and carrying on with a bunch of guys flashing body parts everywhere with the quiet, somber girl that trudged to and from school. Were her classes that bad? Was something else going on that I just didn’t know?
If she was hiding a secret, she hid it well.
Once the scar show had ended and Laska and Eralia hit the dirt one last time, it was time to pack up the trailer as the sun set. We, that is to say I, loaded everything up while those two snuck into the air-conditioned truck “To grab something.” One day they’d learn a new line, though I’d probably have to press them on their half-hearted sneakiness first.
Hopping into the cab, I discovered they’d both taken to the back bench seat – along with the ripe scent of filth and sweat. I’m not sure what they’d intended or if one snuck in after the other, but the sight in the rear-view mirror brought a smile to my face.
Both asleep, they’d come together in the middle, shoulders touching. Laska’s head tilted over, Eralia’s cheek resting against head and squashing Laska’s ears flat. There was a bit of drool, but I ignored that part.
For a time, at least until they woke up, I could pretend we were a normal, happy family. And I could pretend Laska got along with the woman she’d called a whore in the most vicious manner possible not all that long ago.
How things changed.