Copyright© 2010 by Jay Cantrell
The ride to drop Cody off was relative quiet. I heard giggles and snickering from the backseat and Carrie – who had finished off the champagne that Kasey, Cody and I had left on the table – was smiling dreamily (or perhaps drunkenly) at me. I saw her glance downward at her dress and, like a fool, my gaze followed hers.
She had lowered the bodice of her gown completely and her breasts were visible when she opened her coat.
I smiled at the sight.
"You have some serious kinks," I whispered.
Carrie beamed and closed her top coat.
"You know I do," she said. "Wait until tomorrow."
There was a pause.
"Or actually, you don't have to wait," she said softly. "It is now tomorrow or today. Or, you know what I mean. I own you, Mister."
She giggled then repeated the last sentence to herself.
We dropped Cody off and the conversation came alive.
"I can't believe you French kissed my date," Kasey huffed.
"I didn't actually French him," Carrie claimed. "I just sort of, you know, ran my tongue over his lip. It was harmless."
"If he asks me for your phone number I'll be very upset," Kasey said. I couldn't tell if she was angry or just pretending.
"I'm the one that should be pissed," I said. "After all, it was my date that did that to your date."
"I only did it because I figured Kasey would be sticking her tongue in your mouth," Carrie said.
"Ooh," Kasey groaned. "He's my Dad!"
"So?" Carrie said. "I saw all the times you've shaken your butt at him and he told me about the peep show you gave him last week. I figured a little open-mouth kissing was next."
I could almost see the heat coming off Kasey's cheeks.
"The 'peep show' was an accident," she insisted.
"An accident that you did nothing to correct," Carrie told her. "Besides, I was just teasing Cody. He is a nice guy and I was having fun. I didn't mean to hurt you or to cause you problems. I apologize if I made you angry."
"I wasn't really mad," Kasey said. "I was just, well, I don't know what I was. Shocked, maybe. It was unexpected."
Carrie turned around in her seat – well, as much as she could with the seatbelt and whatever foundation garments she was wearing.
"Truce then?" Carrie asked. "You stop flashing my boyfriend and I'll stop teasing yours."
"I guess," Kasey mumbled. "But Dad is bound to see me less than dressed occasionally. I mean, we live right across the hall from each other. I don't want you to get all grabby with Cody if Dad happens to see me in my bra or something."
"So, Cody is your boyfriend now?" I asked.
Kasey was silent.
"Maybe," she said. "I'd like him to be. He's really nice and he treats me really well. I've met his Mom a couple of times and she is terrific. She's a lot older than you are but she's really sweet. I guess I'll have to see if he calls me to ask me out."
"Why?" I wondered.
"Why what?" Kasey asked.
"Why do you have to wait for him?" I said. "Why don't you call him and ask him out? I assume you called him to see if he would go with you tonight."
"Well, I think Mom would shit," Kasey said. "Sorry, Dad, it slipped. I think Mom would be unhappy if I asked a boy out. At least that's the impression I get from her."
"Ask her and see," Carrie offered.
"Or don't ask her and just do it," I suggested as I pulled into the driveway to drop off Kasey at her mother's house. "Call him as a friend and if things go well, see if he would like to do something next weekend. Or talk to him at school Wednesday."
"What if he says he doesn't want to go out with me?" Kasey asked.
"Then he is not as smart as I think he is," I replied. "And why is it the boy who has to do the asking? Why does the boy have to put his self-esteem on the line to get a date? Women want equal rights. Well, that includes an equal chance at rejection. But I don't foresee rejection in your future."
"Now or ever," Carrie agreed. "K, you're one of the best people your age I've ever met. I can't ever see a boy or man saying no to you."
Kasey smiled and leaned forward to kiss Carrie on the cheek. She stopped halfway.
"Jesus, your boobs are hanging out!" my daughter exclaimed. "I hope to God you had those put away when you were making out with my boyfriend."
"Barely concealed but still on display," Carrie said with raised eyebrows. "Actually, the view was just for my date's benefit."
"Gross!" Kasey said. "I do not want to know what you do with my father!"
Still, Kasey leaned forward and kissed Carrie on the cheek.
Then she grabbed my face, turned my head and stuck her tongue halfway down my throat.
"There, we're even," she said with a smirk as she opened the back door.
"I grabbed Cody's butt, too," Carrie said quickly before the door closed. "So I'm still one up on you. See you later in the week."
I watched as Kasey walked to her mom's door shaking her head all the way. I waited in the drive until she was safely inside and then drove home to meet my fate as Carrie's slave.
"I have big plans for you," Carrie whispered as we neared my house.
"OK," I said. "But first ... this stuff with Kasey has to stop. Immediately. It has long ceased to be humorous."
"You're right," Carrie admitted. "And I'm sorry. I was trying so hard to be funny and cool that I pushed things farther than I meant to. I'll talk to her either today or tomorrow and set things straight."
I nodded my agreement.
"Are you really pissed off at me?" Carrie wondered.
"I think pissed off is too strong a term," I answered. "I agree that things got out of hand and I'm glad you recognize it. I hope you realize how much influence you have on Kasey."
"I do," Carrie said solemnly.
"I don't think so," I disagreed. "But I hope that you'll take a few minutes to realize that in just a few days she has come to look up to you and respect you. You're like the cool parent. All the kids want to hang out at that house. Kasey might be 17 but in some ways she's never really had a female presence she looks up – until now. If that's more responsibility than you want we need to figure that out sooner rather than later."
"What do you mean sooner rather than later?" Carrie asked.
"Pretty straightforward," I replied. "If you are uncomfortable with the situation that Kasey and I have put you in, I would rather know it now."
"What are you talking about?" Carrie asked. "Yeah, Kasey looks up to me. I understand it and I'm OK with it."
"Looks up to?" I asked. "Try idolizes and emulates. Carrie, every move you make will be dissected and analyzed and accepted. For example, if you smoked, which I know you do not do very often, Kasey would find it acceptable to smoke. If you spoke Portuguese, Kasey would be taking lessons. Big things, small things, all things, Carrie – if the relationship you have with Kasey develops the way it has started you will be one of the few people whose opinion my daughter will respect. Your actions will be one of the deciding factors when she decides what is right and wrong – probably more so then my words or deeds or her mother's."
I really didn't mean to turn this into a lecture session. But, at the same time, I doubted the Carrie had ever found herself in this situation before. I know it sure as hell snuck up on me – and I had a dozen years of being Kasey's dad before I figured it out.
"So I'm not allowed to do certain things anymore?" Carrie asked. I could tell she was getting angry and I didn't want that. "And if I do them you won't let me be Kasey's friend any longer."
"Not at all," I said softly. "I won't do that, sweetheart. I won't say that and if you see that I'm starting to think that way, please tell me. I'm a guy, Carrie. I don't use semantics or innuendo and ask you to figure out what I mean. I simply say it. So, here it is. What I'm saying is that the relationship you have with Kasey is yours and hers to decide, so long as it is healthy. You are setting things up that are going to be her friend and her confidante. I'm OK with that, if that is what you both want. But if that relationship you develop is unhealthy or leads Kasey to make unhealthy choices – in my opinion – I will err on the side of Kasey's safety every time."
I had pulled into the driveway by this point but I had maintained eye contact with my garage door until I finished speaking. I knew this was a potential tipping point of my relationship with Carrie. But I couldn't allow that to affect my judgment when it came to my daughter.
"And she wouldn't have done some of the things she's done in the last few days if I hadn't been there to goad her or prompt her," Carrie said. I couldn't tell if there was resignation in her voice or some other emotion.
"That includes the good things she's done, hon," I said as I put my hand on hers. I was gratified that Carrie didn't flinch or pull away from my contact. "The last 10 days have been a whirlwind for you, me and her. For all the people who know me. Kasey wants desperately to make a good impression on you. She wants you to like her – for my sake as much for hers. You have had an overall positive effect on her. Please don't think that I'm saying that you haven't. But tonight was too far over the line for not to say something."
Carrie wrapped her hand around mine and held it tightly.
"I'm sorry," she said with a catch in her voice. "I got so caught up in being a cool friend to her that I didn't stop to think about much of anything else. It was like I was the sorority queen in college and she was my pledge. I pushed her and pushed until I put her outside her comfort zone."
"Maybe," I said. "Mostly you pushed her outside my comfort zone and I was there to watch. Kasey might not be uncomfortable with the flirting and overt displays of affection. But I am and I know they were much more reserved until you upped the ante. That's what I'm saying."
"Do you think everyone is still up?" Carrie asked.
"Well, seeing how it's been all of 7 minutes since we dropped her off, I would suspect that she is," I replied. "You might call her cell phone so you don't wake Mark. I doubt he is still running the streets."
We wandered into the house. Carrie was somewhat surprised that her boobs were hanging out her dress – and not altogether pleased with the situation with the cold January wind landed on them.
She slipped into my office to call Kasey and I slipped upstairs to take a shower. Carrie had changed into sweatpants and a sweatshirt when I came downstairs.
"Thanks for waiting until we were alone," Carrie said. "I'm not sure I would have been able. I'm not sure I wouldn't have gotten angry and stayed angry. I probably would have ruined the whole night. That's what I do when I get mad. I'm not as rational as you are. I guess I should get that out of the way now. I get mad and I remember every time you pissed me off in the past year. It's sort of a cumulative effect."
I laughed aloud.
"I've always said that women keep a fruit cellar of slights – real and imagined – in the back of their heads," I replied. "When they lose their tempers, they just reach back and grabbed the first thing handy and toss it out. It might have nothing to do with what angered her this time or it might have happened 5 years before but still she finds it acceptable. There is no expiration date on the things in storage."
"Maybe," Carrie said.
"I figured you would meet me in the shower or be waiting for me in bed," I said. "Or maybe hoped is a better word."
"I wanted to speak to you for a few minutes, seriously, before we start our fun and games," Carrie said.
I groaned dramatically.
"I drank too much tonight," she said. "I don't usually do that and there is no reason that I did tonight."
"Other than what you've been going through for the past few weeks," I interrupted. "You certainly deserved to be able to let your hair down and relax. Carrie, I don't want you to think I've forgotten or dismissed how and why we met."
"I know you haven't," she said sweetly. "And at no time tonight did you look at me like you disapproved. I appreciate that. But I didn't think a thing about that stuff until you mentioned it just now. I'm not certain why I drank as much as I did other than the fact that I felt so comfortable and happy. I knew I didn't have to worry about anything because you would handle anything that came up. That is how much I trust you, Mike. The first couple of days after it happened, I didn't think I would ever trust anyone again.
"Don't think that I ever trusted Lemons," she continued. "I didn't. But I trusted the system to take care of him. I trusted that I would be safe in my own home. That trust was shattered pretty quickly. Even if I could have gone back to Malden I don't think I could have ever lived in that house again. I was a nervous wreck the night we spent down there. I was fine when I was here the night before and I was fine when I was here the next night. I have come to realize that I'm fine here because I believe that I am safe with you. I know you feel protective of me – and that you're going to feel more protective of me as time passes. You're still protective of your ex-wife after all she put you through.
"I like it. Since my Dad died I have felt like a part of me has been missing. The part of him that always took my side, I guess. The part of me that always knew that someone, somewhere loved me. I think tonight was a cumulative effect too. I finally feel that way again. I finally feel as if I don't have to be completely in control of everything. I finally feel that someone will love me even if I drink too much and make an ass of myself to someone's boyfriend – and to my boyfriend. Maybe that is more responsibility than you want. I guess that I should have mentioned that before I was a complete dummy but it really didn't make an impression on me until you forced me to take a look at things. I hope you'll forgive me and that I didn't disappoint you too much."
"There is nothing for me to forgive and you didn't disappoint me at all," I told her. "It was nothing like that. It was more about Kasey and you than it was about you and me. I knew you were having fun and it didn't bother me in the least. I'm not the real jealous type. I understood that you were not trying to steal Cody from Kasey and that you were doing it as much to bolster his self-esteem as anything. But sometimes things take a turn you didn't expect – like Kasey trying to one-up you. If we had just been four friends out together, it wouldn't have made a difference. But we weren't. We're a couple who took his daughter somewhere." Carrie nodded.
"I think the easy relationship you have with her throws me sometimes," Carrie said. "The line between friendship and father-daughter is blurred in this house. There are things that happen here that would have led to a screaming match in my house. My Dad was great. You know that's how I feel. But there are things we disagreed upon, sometimes violently. Not physically violent. I got my share of spankings when I was a kid but nothing I didn't deserve. But there were a lot of angry words exchanged, particularly when I was Kasey's age. Some of the things I've seen here would have precipitated an argument. Here, they start a giggling fit or a set of raised eyebrows and a calm discussion. I think a part of it is the fact that you didn't see her as often as you wanted for so long. I think a part of it is your personality.
"I can say, without hesitation, if you had done what I did tonight I would be screaming and yelling. That is a part of my personality that I don't really like but I can't seem to change. Let's just say I suffer stupidity lightly. What I did tonight was stupid. Not just for Kasey but for what it could have meant for me and you. We haven't been together 20 years. I could have ruined our entire relationship tonight if you had taken it the wrong way."
"Maybe," I agreed. "I'm not really as clueless as what I seem. But don't tell Kasey or Mark that. It's the only way I can catch them doing things. I know a part of you is scared about what's happening here. I know because a part of me is scared, too. It's a small part for me because I'm taking far less risk."
Carrie quirked an eyebrow at me inquisitively.