What We Do For Love
From Chapter Four. Justin and Daniela have told Nicole that Daniela cannot return to her own home, but Nicole is nonetheless trying to reach Daniela’s parents.
By nine o’clock, Daniela’s parents still hadn’t called back.
Justin gave me a pointed look. Told you so.
Shocked by the apparent indifference of these people, I asked, “How do they know you’re safe? You could be camping under the freeway right now.”
Daniela’s voice quavered. “I’m sure they think I’m fine.” The sadness in her voice tore me up.
“They’ve got to be worried.” The tiny crack in my mind had widened just a bit, and a tremor of … something ran through me… a premonition, maybe? Or maybe just nerves. “Even if you’ve had a disagreement, they still love you. They’re your parents.”
“They’re not worried.”
I tried to keep my tone brisk and matter-of-fact. “If that’s the case, then of course you must stay tonight!”
“Thank you,” Daniela whispered. At my request, she dialed her phone again and handed it to me. I left another message.
“Hello, Viviana. This is Nicole again. Since I haven’t been able to reach you, Daniela will stay the night here, in a separate room from my son. I’ll make sure she gets to school on time tomorrow. Please feel free to call me.” I left my phone number again, feeling my temper rise as I thought of what these parents had done tonight.
“So,” I said, “let’s get ready for bed!” I kept my voice bright and chipper. “Justin, will you move your sheets out onto the sofa? I’ll put some fresh ones on your bed for Daniela.”
By comparison to Justin’s male friends, whose presence resounded through the house like a herd of elephants, Daniela was almost ghost-like, blending into the background and whispery quiet. And eager to please.
“Let me put the sheets on,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to do that.”
“All right, thanks.” I found her an unused toothbrush and an old t-shirt of mine to sleep in. “And here’s a clean towel.”
Justin’s small bedroom still had its blue plaid wallpaper. The bedspread had borne pictures of teddy bears until he revolted in his freshman year of high school, requesting a plain blue comforter. Justin’s stuff filled every corner, covered every surface: music posters, two guitars and a drum, his bicycle, a debate trophy, comic books, and books with art or math and logic puzzles.
“Thank you again.” Daniela drooped as she sat down on the bed.
“Are you all right, honey?” I sat down next to her. “Do you want to tell me a little more about what’s going on?”
The two dogs galumphed into the room just as Justin’s tall, lean frame appeared in the doorway, dressed in the sweatpants and t-shirt he wore to bed. Midge and Margo rushed the twin bed, trying to climb aboard, but I pushed them gently down onto the rug. I put my arm around Daniela as she shuddered and the tears started to fall. She gripped her hands together tightly. “I did something… that my parents didn’t like. My dad especially.”
Justin fastened his gaze on her as she spoke. His bleak eyes reminded me of the time he’d found a dead baby rabbit in the swimming pool. My throat suddenly felt dry, and a chill ran over me despite the balmy evening air.
“My mom would forgive me, but Dad won’t let me live at home anymore.”
“I’m sure he’ll reconsider. You know, once he cools off.” What could this girl have done? Totalled the family car? Burned down the house?
Could she be…?
No way… I wouldn’t permit myself to have the thought. She’s only sixteen.
Justin spoke up, his voice harsh in the silence. “We have to tell her, Daniela.”
Up until now I’d thought, or kidded myself, that Justin was only helping a girl with a problem. Now, the fear arose that it might be Justin’s problem, too.
I held my breath.
“Daniela’s pregnant,” Justin said. “And I’m the father.”
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