P U P P Y   L O V E

 

 

 

~  10  ~

 

Mrs. O’Connor had become accustomed to eavesdropping.  She knew she shouldn’t do it, but now that Luke was spending time at their house, back from his vacation and with looser parental reins for the summer, she’d become adept at it.  She justified it as simply a way to keep in touch with Kerry’s life.  He was definitely a teenager now.  Confiding in their friends rather than their mothers was what teens did.  Kerry, too.

 

She especially enjoyed overhearing how his nascent love life was going.

 

The two boys were in Kerry’s room, with the door shut as usual.  They didn’t even open it when she was in the hallway.  It had been ages since she’d had even the barest glimpse inside.  Thinking about that, she realized that the time, months ago now, when she’d tried to enter and Kerry had stood in the doorway, blocking her entrance and yelling at her about violating his privacy, was the very last time she’d even come close to seeing inside.  But, as that confrontation was the beginning of the end of their daily skirmishes, it was a trade-off she’d make again, anytime at all.

 

Even though the door was shut, she could hear them.  Well, she had to sit on her bed next to her heating vent to do so.  The ductwork that led to it branched off from Kerry’s vent.  She could hear them fairly well.

 

“She did what?!”

 

“She followed me on my hike, the first day I was out of school for the summer.  I was in the lake skinny dipping and she saw me.”

 

“Oh, that was that week of intense Bible study with my mother.  I’ll never forget that.  So, what you’re saying is, while I’m stuck learning about the Assyrians and the Israelites, you’re out cavorting naked with Maryann!”

 

“I was doing no such thing!”  Mrs. O’Connor found Kerry’s indignant rebuttal adorable.  “I was in the lake, and she was on the shore, and I made her go away while I got out.  She didn’t see anything.”

 

“Not that you have anything to see!”

 

“How would you know?”

 

Mrs. O’Connor could hear the challenge in Kerry’s voice, and couldn’t help but smile.  Boys!

 

“And anyway,” Luke continued, “it proves my point.  She likes you.  So what are you going to do about it?  Be a shame to waste the opportunity.”

 

Kerry was quiet for a moment, then said, “Let’s talk about something else.  Now that you’re back, we can go hiking together.  I found some neat places last week.  She only was with me that one day.”

 

“Yeah, she got one look at your bod and decided to find someone else to glom after.”

 

Next came the sounds of two boys wrestling.  There seemed to be another sound, too, and she heard both boys saying, “Shhhhhh” a couple of times.  She had no idea what that meant.  But then something occurred to her, something awful.  Maybe they thought she might be listening.  Maybe the shhhhhh was because of her!  Maybe they knew she listened!  She didn’t want them to know that.  She got up from the bed and softly left the room for the kitchen.  They’d be wanting a snack soon anyway.

 

≈≈≈≈≈≈

 

The boys had no idea she’d been listening.  When they’d finished their wrestling, having to stop because they’d awakened Lucky, Luke wanted to talk about Maryann again.  “She won’t give up, you know.  She likes you.  You’re the one she’s picked out, and girls are persistent.”

 

“Well, I’m not ready to have a girlfriend.  I don’t want to waste the summer hanging out with a girl.”

 

Luke sat back on the bed, next to Kerry, pushing a pillow behind his back.  “Girls are really focused on what they want.  If they want a boy, they usually get him.  They have what the books call ‘wiles’.  They have all sorts of ways of trapping their prey.  They dress up nice, do up their hair, wear perfume and lipstick, wear high heels and short skirts, they simper, whatever that means, things like that.”

 

“What makes you such an expert?  I’m not aware that you’ve ever even talked to a girl, other than at church, and I’ve seen the girls at that church.”

 

“I do have the internet, you know.  I read up on these things.  I read some girls’ blogs.  About how they use everything they can to ‘get their man’ as they call it.  It’s kind of scary.”

 

“Well, I hate all those things you said, high heels and makeup and stuff!  They don’t do anything for me.”

 

“Well, girls have other ways, too.  Some of them use sex to get the boy they want.  It’s difficult for boys to turn down a girl willing to do sexy things with them.”

 

“Well, uh, but....”  He paused, thinking, and perhaps beginning to blush just a little.  Then he said, rather defiantly,  “Maybe, but I don’t think Maryann would do that.  She doesn’t seem that kind of girl.”

 

“Maybe, maybe not.  But I can guarantee that she won’t give up on you.  She knows there’ll be a time when you’ll start finding girls attractive, and she’ll be ready.  Girls are ready for romance, for pairing up, before boys are.  She’ll wait.  What the advice columns in the girly magazines say is, if you want a guy and he’s not into girls yet, find a way to be in his life.  Like, for her, maybe hiking with you.  She’ll do something like that.  She’ll make sure you know she’s around.  She’ll bide her time, and when your hormones kick in, there she’ll be.  Waiting.”

 

“Well, it’ll be a long wait.  Maybe when I’m about ready to graduate from high school I’ll feel differently but no, I like being as I am.  What’s the expression Doc keeps using?  Oh yeah, footloose and fancy free.  That’s me.  That’s what I want.  And there’s no way I’m letting Maryann or any other girl hang around me, getting attached and all.  No way at all.”  

 

≈≈≈≈≈≈

 

It was a few nights later, after both of them had gone to bed, that Mrs. O’Connor heard something strange through the vent.  There seemed to be a commotion of some sort in Kerry’s room.  And then she heard him talking, so softly that she couldn’t make out the words, but she could clearly make out the tone of voice.  He was excited and worried, both at the same time, and she thought she caught that same ‘shhhhhhing’ sound she’d heard when Luke had been over the other day.  She could hear the bedsprings bouncing, too.

 

Then, eventually, it was quiet.  She frowned.  She was sure he was alone.  Maybe the noise was from his computer.  Or maybe he was having a nightmare and had been talking in his sleep.  That would account for the bedsprings noise.  Maybe it was that.

 

She spent a somewhat restless night.  Kerry was getting older.  The troubles boys could get into as they got further into puberty could be more serious than the ones of their youth.  She had been cutting him a lot of slack, and it had made a tremendous difference in both their lives.  The two of them were friends now and got along wonderfully, better than most mothers with sons his age.  She knew that from talking to women at work.  But a little voice inside her kept nagging away.  It kept saying her responsibility wasn’t to be his friend — she had to be his mother.  Mothers didn’t let their sons have their own way with everything.  They had rules for the sons to obey.  They enforced discipline that would help the sons throughout their lives.  These women could be loving and playful, but they were in charge, not their sons.  They ruled the roost in their homes.

 

They went into their sons’ bedrooms whenever they wanted to.  If they heard strange noises in the night, they investigated.

 

Still, she remembered how it had been with Kerry, and how it was now.  She was so afraid that if she violated his trust again, she might never regain it.

 

She was still thinking about this while doing the week’s wash.  All sorts of thoughts were swimming in her head.  That was when, while putting Kerry’s sheets in the washer, she suddenly stopped cold.  Then she reached out and plucked something from his sheet.

 

Two blonde hairs.  Just the color of Maryann’s.

 

≈≈≈≈≈≈

 

Mrs. O’Conner thought long and hard.  Maybe she could get a handle on this without ruining everything that she and Kerry had established.  What was done was done and couldn’t be undone.  If he’d slept with Maryann, well, that was awful, but the thing to do now was concentrate on moving forward, not screeching about the past.  What had to happen now was preventing any recurrences.  And for that, she wanted help.  She didn’t want to be seen as the sole bad guy.

 

She needed to talk to the doc.  It was only right, too, to inform him of his daughter’s dalliance.  If what she’d heard the two boys talking about was true, what had happened was certainly as much Maryann’s fault as it was Kerry’s.

 

≈≈≈≈≈≈

 

The doc was in a grumpy mood.  He’d had an argument with a client that morning.  The woman had brought her Siamese cat in to be declawed and the doc had refused.  He didn’t believe in declawing cats.  They ended up in a pretty rancorous argument, on both sides.  Doc was recovering from that when Mrs. O’Connor walked in.

 

“Hello, Dr. Sturges.”  She didn’t know the man well, simply that he was a vet, was kind to Kerry, and that he was Maryann’s father.

 

The doc nodded.  “Mrs. O’Connor.”

 

“Could we talk for a few minutes?  It’s about Kerry.”

 

“Sure.  Want to sit down?”

 

“Thanks.”  Mrs. O’Connor sat in the chair Kerry usually occupied, and the doc sank into his.

 

“I, I hardly know where to start.  You know Kerry and I both had a hard time adjusting to my husband’s death.  We ended up fighting a lot.  It’s only in the past few months that the fighting has stopped.”

 

“Yes, Kerry has told me about that.  He used to come spend some time with me after those fights.  We talked some, about a lot of things.  I never had a son, but if I had, I’d have been proud if he’d turned out to be like Kerry.  Fiercely independent, a mind of his own, but friendly and caring, capable and loyal.  A boy who does the right thing.  Just a great boy.  I’m sure you’re very proud of him.”

 

“Well, yes, I am, but right now I can’t stop worrying.”

 

“Oh?  Anything I can help you with?  I don’t think you need to be worried at all when it comes to Kerry.” 

 

“I, I don’t quite know how to say this.  I guess maybe just say it is best.  See....” She paused, then blurted out, “I found some blonde hair in Kerry’s bed.  On his sheets, really.  But I haven’t been in his room for months, and so can’t really say what’s going on in there.  I did think there were some strange sounds coming from his room the other night.  The hair just makes me more suspicious.  And worried.”

 

“And you didn’t go see what the noises were?”

 

“I just said, I haven’t been in Kerry’s room for months.  It was sort of a bargain we made, and is one of the reasons we stopped fighting.  I agreed I wouldn’t go in there, even when he wasn’t home, and I’ve kept that promise so he’d see I trusted him, and so he’d see he could trust me as well.”

 

“Well, if you trust him, then everything’s OK.”

 

“But I don’t know now!”  Mrs. O’Connor’s voice was rising with her frustration.  “I found the hair, and, and I heard giggling, and I can’t go in his room!”

 

“Oh.  OH!”  The doc smiled, now understanding perfectly.  “Well, I wonder where that hair could have come from,” he said, his tone very innocent.

 

“Well, I’m afraid I know.  I’m afraid he had a girl in there, in his bed.”

 

The doc looked down, grimacing so she would think he shared her distress, then said, sadly, “I guess you’ve discovered his secret then.”

 

“Uh, you mean, you mean, you knew?”  Mrs. O’Connor was shocked.  “You knew, and didn’t, uh, didn’t—”

 

“Didn’t tell you?  No, it wasn’t my place to.  He wanted to keep it from you.  It was a big secret.”

 

“But....”  She stopped, unsure how to go on.  Why was this man treating this so cavalierly?  Kerry was only 14!  Maryann was the same age.  Certainly Doc didn’t approve.  He couldn’t approve.

 

“But they’re so young,” she finally finished.

 

“Yes, both of them are.”

 

“So you know about Maryann?”  Mrs. O’Connor found a way to mention her name, finally.

 

“Maryann?  What does Maryann have to do with it?” The doc acted confused, like he had no idea why she had mentioned his daughter.  “I know Maryann has had a crush on Kerry for quite some time, but it’s just that, a young girl’s crush.  There’s no way it would have gone past that.  They’re both kids, and I’m sure they’ll both grow out of it eventually.”

 

“But they’re sleeping together!”

 

Doc opened his eyes a little wider, still playacting.  “What?!  Oh, oh no, I’m sure they’re not doing that.  She knows I wouldn’t approve of that.  No, no no.”

 

“But I found a blonde hair on his sheets!!!”

 

The doc had a problem.  He could put Mrs. O’Connor’s mind to rest very easily, but the dog was Kerry’s secret.  He wasn’t going to break Kerry’s trust.  If she was going on about two kids sleeping together, it could be inferred that Mrs. O’Connor still didn’t know about Lucky.  And he wasn’t going to be the one to tell her.  But, as concerned as she was, he couldn’t just let her go away fearing what she was thinking was happening.  Who knew what problems that could cause, and he certainly didn’t like her having those thoughts about his daughter. 

 

So, he had a problem, and being the doc, he solved it.  He solved it in the only way he felt was honorable.  He met it head on, faced up to it.

 

“Mrs. O’Connor,” he said, standing up straight and looking her in the eye, “I’m sure your son and my daughter aren’t sleeping together.  I don’t think either one of them is ready for that.  But Kerry is  a boy, and he’s 14.  Boys that age become very interested in sex, and if given the opportunity, frequently act upon the signals their bodies are sending them.  I think you should talk to Kerry.  Tell him your concerns.  But, this is important: talk, don’t scream, don’t accuse, don’t put him on the defensive, just talk.  Don’t burn bridges; listen to what he has to say.  That’s what matters: listening to him.  And while you’re talking, you might just happen to ask him about Lucy.”

 

“Lucy?  LUCY?!  So there is  a girl he’s sleeping with?  One I don’t even know?  And you know about it.”

 

“I’m afraid he’s been sleeping with Lucy for quite some time, Mrs. O’Connor.  But it isn’t as bad as you think.  Really it isn’t.  Talk to your boy.  He’s a wonderful kid.  He got straight A’s!”

 

When she’d gone, the Doc shook his head.  And couldn’t stop a smile from breaking out on his lips every couple of minutes, no matter how hard he tried.