I’m trying not to let Alyssa’s reaction to me get under my skin, and I refuse to give up that easily. I remember the way I was at twelve. Eric is used to dealing with boys and girls are much more emotional creatures. I’m better equipped to navigate the landmines than he is.
I take a deep breath and knock on Alyssa’s door.
“Go away, Dad!” Alyssa yells.
“It’s Sookie. Can I come in and talk to you?” I ask.
Instead of answering she yanks the door open and stomps back to her bed before flopping face first with her face in the pillow.
“I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot,” I apologize and step into her room. I close the door behind me. “If you want to know the truth, I was afraid of meeting you.”
She rolls off the bed and goes to her bag on the dresser. She grabs an iPod from the pocket and sits back down, but doesn’t put the ear buds in. “I don’t know why my approval means anything.”
“Because your dad loves you very much and he wants us to be friends. I’d like for us to be friends, too, but I understand that won’t happen right away. I just thought you should know that your dad talks about you a lot. You’re very special to him and when you love someone, what is special to them becomes special to you.”
“He never talks about you,” she tells me and looks at me for the first time since I walked in the room. “Maybe he doesn’t care about you.”
“Well maybe it’s a good thing he hasn’t. Now you can ask me what you want to know.” I decide to spin this positively. Maybe if I stay positive and cheerful it will change Alyssa’s attitude.
“How old are you?”
“I’m twenty-seven. My birthday was last month.”
“That’s like twelve years younger than my dad… did you know he was married when you met him?”
“Not when I met him, no, but he told me the truth that night. He was honest with me.”
“And you still continued to see him? You’re just as bad as him for that. And what’s worse is you dated Levi and then ran back to my dad,” she says with disgust.
“I didn’t know that Levi was your father’s son,” I tell her. “If I had known I never would have dated him. That surprised us all, and I’m sorry that Levi got hurt. I didn’t want that to happen. And I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt because of me.”
“I don’t like that he moved out,” she admits.
“I’m sure that’s been hard on you. I know it was hard for your dad to leave you, and I know he misses being able to see you everyday.”
“Why him? He has a family. You didn’t have to see him anymore after he told you he was married.”
“It’s complicated,” I start, and she rolls her eyes. “I know that sounds like a bullshit answer, but it is. The truth is that we were being selfish and sometimes when you meet someone special all reason goes out the window. You forget what the right thing is and you follow your heart.”
The crazy thing is that I feel more comfortable having this conversation than I did when Ryan cornered me.
“Levi isn’t hurt, ya know. He already has a new girlfriend.” I don’t know if she’s trying to make me feel better or if she thinks I care about him and it’ll hurt me. “Are you going to cheat on my dad? Like when he cheated on my mom… with you.”
“No, Alyssa, I won’t cheat on your dad. And I’m happy for Levi. He’s a good guy. He deserves to have a girl that can give him her whole heart. That’s the way it should be.”
“Why didn’t you want to meet me the last time you were here?”
“Because getting to know all of you is important to me, and I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I didn’t think I was ever going to see your dad again and then there he was out of the blue. It took me by surprise and I needed a little time to get my head on straight,” I explain.
“My mom called you a prostitute. Why would she call you that? Is that true?”
Fuck. I don’t know how to answer this. On the one hand I want to be honest, and on the other hand I feel like there are some things she might still be too young to know. But I remember how adults used to treat me like I was an idiot when I was that age and decide I don’t want to treat Alyssa that way.
“She called me that because it’s true, or at least it was. I don’t do that anymore,” I say honestly. I don’t say that she said it to be a spiteful bitch. I’m not going to badmouth Aude to her children.
“Is that really how you met my dad?”
“Yes.” I leave it at that. She doesn’t need to know the details of the night we met.
“Is that how you met Levi?” she asks, scrunching her nose.
“No, I met Levi when he went to Las Vegas for his birthday. I was there with some friends trying to cheer up after your dad and I stopped seeing each other.”
“Did you like being a prostitute?” She seems truly curious and not judging right now, which is a relief.
“Mmm… that’s a tricky question to answer. I like that I’ve been able to buy a nice house and go to college because of it, but I always knew I wouldn’t do it forever.”
There’s a few minutes of quiet while Alyssa takes it all in. She seems to be feeling better. If nothing else at least she’s not crying anymore. I’ll take that little victory.
“I know it’s asking a lot, but will you promise me something?” I ask her.
“I don’t know. What is it?”
“All that stuff I just told you about being a prostitute, will you keep it a secret just between you and me?” I ask. It’s a long shot, but maybe she’ll like knowing something her brothers, except Levi, don’t know.
“I won’t tell my brothers if that’s what you’re asking. The twins would think they could really get to see your boobs,” she sighs and rolls her eyes.
I lift my eyebrows, but it gives me an idea.
“Maybe I need to find one of those hairy chest shirts and wear it when I meet them,” I suggest.
“That would be funny,” she gives me her first genuine smile. “They can’t even grow a moustache yet, so they’d probably be jealous.”
I chuckle at that. “They might be.”
There’s another minute of silence but it’s not so tense anymore. I decide to cut and run while things are good.
“Tell you what, why don’t you finish unpacking and when you’re ready come on out so we can take you out to lunch? You can pick where we go,” I offer.
She just shrugs and stands to grab her backpack so she can unpack everything.
“Thank you for letting me in to talk,” I say before I open her door.
“I’ll be out,” she tells me and I exit, closing the door behind me so Eric and I might talk in private before she joins us.
I lean against the door and take a few deeps breaths before I go find him. He’s lying on his bed, but his feet are touching the floor.
“Hey there,” I say from the doorway.
“You made it out alive,” he says and gives me a halfhearted smile as he lifts his head.
“We had an interesting talk,” I say as I walk toward him. “But I don’t think she hates me anymore.”
“I don’t think she ever hated you. Hearing about you and seeing you face to face are two different things.”
“It’s okay if it takes time for her to come around, and I told her that. She told me she doesn’t like that you moved out,” I tell him. Maybe he needs to spend more time with her.
Before he moved out of the house I know they spent a lot of time together. Maybe she’s worried he’ll forget all about her. It could be a jealousy thing. When I think about how I was at her age I know I would have been jealous if my dad started spending more time with a girlfriend than he did with me. I can be patient and let things happen slowly. It’s not like I can force Alyssa to like me. She may never, and I have to live with that.
It’s getting Eric to live with it that’s going to be a challenge.
Alyssa is doing better. I don’t know what the hell her problem was when we first got back though. She’s talking to Sookie now, or at least answering questions. I can only assume seeing Sookie fucked with her head, which is understandable. Especially since Sookie told me Alyssa is upset I moved out. She knows Aude and I stopped getting along, but with Sookie showing up out of nowhere she probably thinks she’s the cause.
I think I’ll talk to Aude about having Alyssa stay with me full time and have her go back to the big house — that’s what I call their home — when I need to travel for work or I spend time in California, unless I take her with me. She’s my little person and I hate that’s she’s all fucked up over this.
We are having lunch at a little diner near my apartment because they have this amazing brownie sundae that Alyssa just had to have. It’s a little weird because Alyssa likes dessert well enough, but she usually prefers yellow cake over brownie anything.
“So what’s up with the brownies, you’re usually a vanilla girl,” I comment and I notice Sookie stiffen at my side.
Alyssa just shrugs and says, “I wanted chocolate today. Is there something wrong with that?”
“No, I’m just curious.” I’m not looking forward to her teen years if the attitude is starting already.
“I love brownies,” Sookie pipes up. “Especially when they’re still warm and gooey inside.”
Alyssa gives her a half smile and sits back on her side of the booth. She starts playing with her napkin as she looks out the window. I don’t know if I like this new Alyssa, she worries me.
“Is there anything special you want to do tonight?” Sookie asks her.
“No, I think I just want to stay home. I don’t feel like being around anyone.” At least she’s giving Sookie honest answers instead of the shit I’m getting from her.
“Staying home is good. My toenails need repainting,” Sookie says.
Alyssa looks up at Sookie with genuine interest for once and her half-assed smile comes back.
“Can,” she pauses to look at me and asks, “Can you put some makeup on me?”
“Sure, if you want,” Sookie smiles. “As long as it’s okay with your dad.”
Aude doesn’t wear makeup, so this is something I’ve never even thought about.
“Uh… yeah, as long as we’re staying in. Sookie will show you how to wash it off too though.” I don’t like this growing up shit.
“Ooooh, I can give you a facial,” Sookie says to Alyssa and I choke on my coffee. “Your face will feel like it’s made of silk when we’re done.”
Oh, not that kind of facial.
“Really? And my nails too? Mom won’t let me wear nail polish.”
“You are allowed to wear nail polish,” I tell my daughter. “If your mother has anything to say she can talk to me.”
“I have a big case of polishes you can pick from,” Sookie tells my daughter.
“Nothing crazy,” I chime in. “Stay as neutral as possible please.”
“Dad, chill out. I’m not a baby anymore.”
“You’ll always be my baby, so I’m allowed to freak out.”
“Eric it’s nail polish, not a tattoo,” Sookie tries to reason.
“I don’t care. I don’t want my little girl looking like a tramp.”
Sookie raises her eyebrows at that.
“I’m not wearing neutral polish. Am I a tramp?” she asks.
“No, it’s sexy on you…” I pause and look between their identical looks. “Fuck me, I don’t like this.”
“Dad, watch your language,” Alyssa says.
Sookie fights a giggle and sips her drink.
“I want pink. Is that too trampy?” she asks me. I want to scream yes, but I’m trying not to be that guy.
“I’ll defend neutral colors to your mom. Anything else is on you,” I say in response.
“I have tons of pink polishes. I’m sure you’ll find at least one you like.”
I’m cringing when Alyssa’s brownie sundae is delivered. Her eyes go wide and a look of pure joy crosses her face.
“Are you sharing?” I ask her.
“You should’ve ordered your own.”
“You can’t possibly eat all of that, Lyss.”
“I bet I can,” she smirks, looking eerily like me. I’m not going to argue with her mood swings today.
Again Sookie seems to stiffen up a little bit and she reaches for my hand under the table.
“Don’t eat that to quick or you’ll end up with a tummy ache,” Sookie warns.
“You sound like my mom,” she says and takes a huge bite.
“She’s right though, go easy. I don’t want you crying about your stomach hurting later.”
Sookie squeezes my hand but doesn’t say anything. I know she’s trying to communicate something, but I’m not a mind reader so I give her a questioning look.
“What?” I ask.
She mouths something but I can’t make out what she’s trying to say, and she obviously doesn’t want Alyssa to know.
I sigh and get up from the table to go toward the hallway with the bathrooms, hoping Sookie follows me. Her mime trick isn’t working and its apparently something I need to know. Since I’m here I go in and go to the bathroom. When I wash my hands and exit Sookie is waiting for me against the opposite wall.
“I think I know what’s up with your little princess,” she says.
“Care to enlighten me?”
“She’s twelve, right? Abnormally moody, craving chocolate…” Sookie trails off hoping I’ll get it, but I don’t. “Eric I think she’s about to get her period.”
All of the blood drains from my face and I feel a little faint. She is not allowed to grow up this fast.
“I don’t accept this,” I say, shaking my head.
“Yeah, my daddy didn’t either,” she pats my arm with a chuckle.
“We need to go back, I don’t want her to think anything’s up.”
Shit. I knew this would happen. I just hoped she’d graduate college first.
“You go first. I’ll be there in a minute,” Sookie says and kisses my cheek.
I don’t know how to act toward her now. Shit, she probably doesn’t even know what’s going on with her. Now I feel bad for her.
“How’s the brownie?” I ask when I get back to the table.
“Amazing,” Alyssa says, and takes her last bite.
“That’s going to hurt later,” I joke.
She gives me a look that I don’t really know how to decipher and I grab the check to go pay since it seems like she’s ready to go. Alyssa follows me up front and I’m surprised when she wraps her arms around my waist and leans her head against my side. My princess is still inside of the strange creature that’s taken over her body.