Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay
After supper Hadassah brought her cell phone down from her room. It was one of those razor thin models – perhaps even the one they call the Razor, though we didn't know since she'd picked it out – in a metallic purple. She'd put on a pair of sweat pants and a tank top with the Calvin Academy girls' soccer team logo on it. Her feet were bare, and I could see how short she kept her toenails. We hadn't told her to call in our presence, but she came and sat down in the living room – far enough away that we weren't in her lap, but close enough that we could hear. I watched as she called up the menu and sent Joshua's number before putting the phone to her ear.
"Hello, Mr. Benitez. Is Josh there?" She listened for a moment. "Please, if you could – I need to talk to him." She looked up and nodded at Gill and me, and then got an odd expression on her face – a mixture of delight and fear, I would have to call it. "Josh, it's me ... Yeah, I really need to talk to you ... A serious talk, big stuff ... Um, if you could come over to my house that would be best ... Yes, tomorrow morning. Ten would be great ... Thanks, Josh, I appreciate it." And then she blushed, and when I heard what she said next I knew the blush was because Gill and I were listening. "I love you too, Josh ... Okay, bye."
She closed the phone and put it down on the arm of the chair she was sitting in, and took in a breath. The look of delight was gone, but fear remained in the whiteness of her face and the way she had to clamp her jaw to keep her chin from quivering. "He'll be here at 10. Could you let me let him in, and bring him to you? Please?"
Gill said, "We can do that, certainly. But we won't be far away."
"Is it okay, Mom ... I mean, is it okay if I kiss him?"
I looked at Gill, and she looked at me. I for one wasn't sure what I was willing to permit at that moment. I didn't want to be harsh, but I didn't want to passively permit any further immorality. Gill looked back at Hadassah, whose face was now pathetically pleading, with wide bright eyes and a vulnerable look. "I don't think your father's comfortable with that right now. But if you want to kiss him in our presence—" she looked at me and I nodded "—you can do that."
Hadassah lowered her head. "I'm learning new consequences of this all the time."
"I don't know if it gets any easier," I said. "But eventually you will run out of new consequences. The ones you know will still be there, but at least at some point you won't have any new ones."
"Dad, Mom, you didn't ... I mean ... you didn't do ... anything like this, did you?" She looked up at us suddenly, a few locks of hair falling in front of her eyes. "I'm not trying to pry, really I'm not. I just want to know if ... if you have some experience that might help me now." It seemed that her nervous system didn't know whether to blush or faint, for one moment she turned pink, and then went pale again.
Gill just shook her head, the gold and onyx necklace she was wearing moving against her pink blouse. I took in a lot of air, and let it out slowly. "Before I met your mother, I spent a couple of months being ... stupid. God watched over me – no one got pregnant, and no one got sick, and the fact is that I never got as ... far ... as you and Josh did. God let me be stupid, but only with girls who were smart enough to stop at a certain point ... but not, I guess, smart enough not to go to that point. That's as close as either of us have come to your situation." I felt a drumming on my knee, and when I looked down I saw that my fingers were doing it, a symptom of nervousness.
"I know you both love me, and will pray for me, and help me however you can. But I wish there was someone I could talk to who's been where I am." She sounded like a little girl just then, her voice small and plaintive.
I almost took in another big breath, but I knew that I had to break that habit before it became too engrained. So I forced myself to speak without that sign of agitation. "You know, Hadassah, that the elders will have to know of this – and Dr. Chalmers."
She stared at me, her face going definitely white. "I hadn't thought of that..."
Gill sprang up and knelt beside Hadassah, and gathered our daughter into her arms. "We're sorry, honey – your father didn't mean to scare you like that. Will you be okay?"
My daughter was recovering her color now, as I saw looking over Gill's shoulder. Of course against her black hair even the olive complexion of Hadassah's skin could look somewhat pale, but that time she had, I thought, very nearly fainted. "Yes, I'll be fine. It was just so sudden."
"I'm sorry, daughter, I really am," I said. "I should have thought to take it easy. My only excuse is that I'm dealing with a shock too – not as much as you're bearing, but more than I ever expected."
"It's okay, Dad, really." She kissed Gill's forehead, black and blonde hair mingling for a moment, and gently pushed, and my wife came back to the sofa leaving Hadassah in her chair. I heard the springs settle as Gill sat down. "You're right – I do need to tell the elders and Dr. Chalmers. More consequences..."
"Yes. But my point was that the elders almost certainly, and Dr. Chalmers very likely, will know of an individual or organization who can give you the help you need so much right now – someone who knows where you are, because she's been there."
"Won't they want to kick me out of the church – and out of school?" I heard the little girl on her voice again. Hadassah had never known another church nor another school.
"As long as Tyrone Jackman's one of the elders, it'll take a fight to kick out a repentant young lady. As for Dr. Chalmers..." I wasn't sure there. I knew him as a very sincere Christian, but also as a very cold and hard man, at least as far as I could tell, who didn't seem as though he would be very forgiving.
"When you tell Dr. Chalmers, we'll be there," said Gill. "And your father has some stature – he is not unknown in theological circles – and that may help."
"We can't pull strings, Gill," I said. My voice sounded a little irritated in my ears.
"No, we can't. But we can use your cachet to ensure that Hadassah receives fair treatment – not preferential, but fair." Gill's voice was firm.
"And what of those children whose parents lack that cachet?" I sounded irritated still, perhaps a bit more irritated.
"Time out!" That was Hadassah's voice. "I can't stand to have you fighting over Daddy's influence while I'm ... I'm pregnant." She was clearly fighting a hard battle against tears. Her eyes were bright, and she reached up a finger and wiped at her right eye, the hand shaking as it rose and fell.
"You're right," I said. "Your mother and I can work this out – if we need to, and we may be closer in principle than we realize – we can work this out at another time. For now, this much is definite: When you visit with Dr. Chalmers, we will be there to support you. And this is definite too – we'll deal with the questions of the elders, and of Dr. Chalmers, after you've spoken with Joshua. One thing at a time, Hadassah. That's how we'll survive this."