“Hi Dad…ling. Darling. Hi darling.”
I don’t think my daughter was aware that I knew exactly what she thought of me, and so it was fairly easy to play into that image. I frowned at my iPad as I continued to pretend to read the daily news, and waited for her to try again.
“Good morning darling!”
“Oh, hello honey,” I said, looking up and overplaying my absent-mindedness. Yes, I can be a little absent-minded at times, and yes, I know it drives my daughter crazy.
For once, it was something I could use to my advantage. It’d give me a chance to let Belle grow comfortable with her role as her own mother; I could pretend not to notice anything unusual about her behavior.
“Oh honey,” I said without looking up. “That leak still isn’t fixed—you might have to sleep in the study for a few more nights. Is that going to be a problem?”
I couldn’t resist—at the sound of excitement, I looked up, peering over my glasses with an amused smile on my face.
“I mean, uh…I’m going to miss you, sweetums.”
“You too, pork chop.”
I pretended not to notice the look of disgust on my daughter’s face as I turned back to the newspaper app. ‘Pork chop’ may have been pushing it…but in all fairness, Mary and I had never, ever called each other “sweetums”.
That afternoon, I was neck-deep in work when Belle came home. Belle’s body, anyway.
“Hey sweetums,” I replied, and laughed as my wife rolled my daughter’s eyes.
“Do you think Ben noticed anything wrong?”
“I’d be surprised. The new Pokemon game is out tomorrow, and I literally don’t think he cares about anything else right now.”
I cocked an eyebrow at that, and my daughter stuck her tongue out at me.
“Trying to get the hang of the parlance.”
“Tip number one—I don’t think teens these days say ‘parlance’. How was school?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. I think that was my wife’s genuine reaction, but it so perfectly mirrored my daughter’s natural response to the question, I momentarily forgot the strange situation we’d gotten ourselves into.
For the next half-hour we chatted about Belle’s social circles, her grades, her status at school. I wasn’t able to offer much in the way of useful plans, but I’ve always been a good listener, and I could tell my wife felt much better once she’d vented about the problems in our daughter’s life, and started constructing the first steps of a plan.
“Of course, none of it will work if Belle can’t use what I’ve made for her and take advantage of her improved circumstances.”
“Anyway, I have…well, I have something strange to tell you.”
“Stranger than what we’re doing now?”
My wife laughed—again, it was so strange, hearing those familiar peals of laughter coming out of my daughter’s mouth. They were younger, higher-pitched. You don’t think of someone’s laughter changing over the years, but it reminded me of how she’d laughed when we’d first met.
“I guess not. Did you know that our daughter has a boyfriend?”
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I sat straight in my seat.
“Oh?” I said, and even I could hear the sense of danger in my voice.
“Yes, and I think he might be part of the reason we’ve seen such drastic changes in our daughter lately.”
“What’s his name?”
“I know. But I think he might be trouble.”
“So break up with him.”
“Right. Yes. Obviously.”
Belle’s eyes looked away, refusing to meet my gaze.
“What? What is it?”
She bit her lip.
“Spit it out, honey.”
“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“I’m talking to my 40-year old wife who’s currently in my teenage daughter’s body. I think things are as uncomfortable as they’re going to get.”
“Well…you promise this won’t get weird?”
“I promise it can’t grow much weirder.”
My daughter took a deep breath, and looked me in the eyes.
“I wasn’t expecting the hormones.”
I paused I processed what she was saying.
“I mean…it’s been so long, honey. Do you remember what it was like being a teenager?”
My eyes widened.
We sat there in an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds. Clearly, I’d been wrong—there was room for things to get much, much weirder.
Despite it being more than twenty years ago, I distinctly remembered my teenage years. I must have spent more time masturbating than eating, and I had been a big eater.
“Spike is…well, he’s hot.”
“Honey, he’s a teenager!”
“I know! Do you think I don’t know that? But I’m in…here.”
My wife gestured to our daughter’s body.
“And as long as I’m in here, I can’t look at him without wondering what he looks like naked. I have spent more time today imagining teenage cocks than I ever have—I didn’t even think about that kind of stuff when I was a teenager!”
I’d been my wife’s first—Mary was raised in a religious household, and she’d once told me that she hadn’t started masturbating until we’d been married for four years.
She’d assured me that was a compliment.
My daughter sighed, as if the weight of the world was on her teenage shoulders. It would have been funny, if I wasn’t aware of the context.
“I’ll break up with Spike. Of course I’ll break up with Spike; it’s the obviously correct thing to do. I just…”
Again, that comically out-of-place sigh.
“I just hadn’t realized that Belle’s hormones were so…powerful.”
I nodded. We’d gone right past uncomfortable, and I had nothing useful to offer.
We sat there in silence for a few more seconds, until I noticed the pink on Belle’s face.
“Oh! Oh, I was just thinking…”
I gulped. By the way that my daughter’s eyes were again darting around the room, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know what was about to follow.
“God, please don’t be weird about this.”
“I’ll try not to,” I said gently.
“I just…I’m going to go and grab those two bullets from my dressing-table, okay?”
My eyes widened, and I nodded slowly, trying desperately not to think about what that meant.