It all started with the fudge. Sunshine saw me taking pictures to post here, then she snapped a few of her own to share with her Tweedles. (See definitions below and right.) While I was still writing yesterday's post, "Oh, Fudge!," she asked if a certain Tweedle could come over. This certain Tweedle is of the opposite sex. Let's call him a Heedle.
Sunshine is 15. She has, and has always had, many Tweedles. Ever since I can remember our home has had countless kids coming and going; hiding-and-seeking in our closets; performing skits in masks and capes and tutus from our exploding costume box; draped across our couches to watch movies; and staggering down for pancakes after a sleepover. But, not since she was 7, has Sunshine invited over a Heedle.
"To try our fudge," she said.
I looked up from the screen, cocked my head and bit my lip to give her question the weight it deserved. She's a good kid. She's 15. I'm home. "Sure," I said.
"Really?" she said.
"No going to your room," I added.
"I understand," she said, already texting an invitation.
Before I'd yet to press Publish, the doorbell rang.
I've met this particular Heedle on three previous occasions and he is easily the most polite and respectful Tweedle I've ever come across: "Hello, Mrs. Corcoran. Would you like me to take off my shoes?"
A half hour later, when Sunshine, the Heedle and The Storm were gathered around a plate of fudge, well into their third round of crazy eights, it was time for me to head out with Hollywood for his lacrosse camp.
"Your father will be home in twenty minutes. Make good choices." I didn't point a stern finger, but my eyes, locked on Sunshine's, did.
Then we left. Only fifteen minutes later, did it occur to me to warn Balthazar.
"What?" he said, from somewhere deep in traffic, after his long day.
"Honey, she's 15. They're playing crazy eights with the kid sister. Be cool."
When I finally returned, hours later, Balthazar and The Storm were sitting together, watching sci-fi reruns, the way he and Sunshine often did. (His plan, since the beginning, has been to grow them nerdy, in order to ward off Heedles. It obviously isn't working.) I grabbed a slice of cold pizza from the open box on the counter.
"They went for ice cream."
"He stayed for dinner?"
"Yep," he said. Stone cold.
"How was it?"
He looked up from the screen. "It was awful."
"He's a nice boy," I said.
"I know," he said. "But this can't go on. It's not right." There was agony in his voice and in his eyes.
|This is how I imagine Blathazar still sees Sunshine.|
"She's 15, now. It's actually absolutely right."
Returning to the screen, and settling deeper into the sofa, he said. "I don't like it."
"Of course, you don't."
I imagined how the evening must have played out. I know they would have roped him into a few games of cards. Sunshine would have suggested the pizza. The meal Balthazar would have preferred was still in the fridge: Three potatoes wrapped in foil for baking, filets wrapped in butcher block, and asparagus still banded in rubber. He would have been cordial on the outside, seething and suffering internally. He would have played his cards without conviction. I hoped the Heedle was polite enough to lose the game, but I didn't dare ask.
"You're a good dad," I said, and I kissed Balthazar's beautiful forehead.