Rose Jackson stood in the kitchen looking out the window as the rain pattered lightly against the Jacksons’ house. Three days earlier the entire countryside had been blanketed in fresh snow, but two days of 9 temperatures and a little rain had left only a few patches here and there not yet melted. Once again, slowly and fitfully, spring was breaking winter’s icy grip. And not a moment too soon as far as Rose was concerned.
Footsteps in the hallway upstairs caught Rose’s attention. Jennifer was coming down. Rose took a bowl from the cupboard and put it on the table, then grabbed a box of cereal from the pantry and put that on the table as well, just as her daughter appeared in the doorway.
“Good morning,” said Rose. “How was your sleep?”
“Pretty good I guess,” said Jennifer. “I’m still a bit tired. Can I have some coffee?”
“Sure, if you want.” Rose took a coffee mug from the cupboard, filled it and set it in front of Jennifer. “There you go,” she said.
“Thanks.” Jennifer reached for the cream, which was already on the table and poured a generous amount into the coffee.
“So,” said Rose after a brief pause. “Your dad and I had a long talk last night. About you, and your grades, and Bobby Winslow, and all that.”
Jennifer grimaced. “Yeah,” she said unhappily. “I figured.”
“It didn’t go particularly well,” said Rose.
“Oh,” said Jennifer. “And I suppose that’s my fault.”
“How would that be your fault?” Rose sounded surprised.
“I don’t know,” said Jennifer. “It just feels like everything is my fault.”
Rose pondered that for a second. “Maybe we can fix that,” she said, “by just dealing with the stuff that actually is your fault.”
Jennifer looked unconvinced.
“Let’s start with the issue of grades,” said Rose. “Maybe you could tell me what you’ve been doing when you should have been doing your schoolwork.”
“Nothing,” said Jennifer.
Rose allowed herself a little smile. “I could almost believe that,” she said, “if it was just the grades we were looking at. But knowing you’ve been hanging out with Bobby Winslow, I have to think you were doing something, and we need to know what.”
Jennifer scowled. “I haven’t been doing my schoolwork,” she said. “Why do you want to know anything more than that?”
“Because we’re your parents,” said Rose. “You’re only 15 years old and we’re responsible for you.”
“I’ll be 16 in two weeks,” said Jennifer.
“Two weeks isn’t going to change the situation much,” said Rose. “Two years maybe, but not two weeks.”
Jennifer was silent. “What do you want me to say?” she said eventually.
“For starters,” said Rose, “tell me what you’ve been doing with Bobby during your spare periods when you used to do your schoolwork.”
“Nothing,” said Jennifer. “We go to his house and play video games.”
Rose managed to hide her surprise. “You go to his house? And Bobby’s mother is OK with that?”
“Bobby’s mother works,” said Jennifer. “She’s never there.”
“Mhmm.” Rose tried to come to grips with this information. “And you play video games?”
“Yeah,” said Jennifer. “What else would we do there?”
Rose swallowed, not sure how to answer that. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’m still just trying to get my head around the fact that you’re there at all.”
There was silence for a minute or two. Jennifer sipped her coffee and ate an occasional spoonful of cereal while Rose sat thoughtfully sifting through the information she had just been given. Eventually Rose spoke.
“Your father thinks we should forbid you to go out with this boy you know,” she said.
“His name is Bobby,” said Jennifer sharply.
“Right,” said Rose. “Bobby.”
She paused. “Here’s what you’re going to have to do,” she continued. “You’re going to have to stop going to Bobby’s house. If you do that, and if your grades go back up, then I’ll tell Andrew that you have told me that nothing serious has gone on between you and Bobby. And I’ll tell him that I believe you, and that I think we should let you keep seeing Bobby at school and maybe outside of school sometimes as long as you’re supervised and we know exactly what’s going on.”
There was a long silence. “Is it a deal?” said Rose.
“I guess so,” said Jennifer unhappily. “Do I have a choice?”
“Not really much of one,” said Rose. “It sucks,” said Jennifer.
Rose nodded. “Welcome to the real world,” she said.