Renee

Here it is, past midnight, definitely past eleven pm, and what am I doing? What am I always doing at least twice a week, even on some school nights, like TONIGHT, for the past few months? Calling my daughter's cell phone, which she conveniently "forgets to charge" or "turned off the ringer of" or "accidentally turned off," texting her messages she conveniently "forgets to look for," and waiting up for her to get a notion in her head that maybe she ought to come home from wherever it is that she and her boyfriend of the moment have gotten themselves off to this time. She said to see a movie, but I checked the show time online and it would have been over by 9. I'm sure she'll come through the door with all her usual excuses of going to get a sundae or bad traffic or a flat tire, because god knows that boy has had more car troubles in a few months than I've had since I had my very first car thirty years ago.

Nothing works with Jessica to make her do what I want her to do, what any fifteen-year-old SHOULD be doing. She doesn't even have her learner's permit yet, and somehow she still ends up getting exactly where she wants, when she wants, with that boyfriend of hers. Ryan is far from the sort of boy I would pick for my daughter to be dating anyway. Jessica is still a freshman, and this Ryan kid is a senior, probably eighteen. Only one reason makes sense to me about why a guy that age would want to date a girl her age, and it's not one that I want my daughter having anything to do with.

But Jessica has always managed to get her way if she wanted it badly enough, especially in the past couple of years. Whatever I try to do or say, whatever boundaries I try to set, she has an answer against them, one that's good enough for her father to say okay to. I try to keep her from going out late on the weekends, she points out that she could be sneaking out on school nights instead. I try to make her spend more time with the family instead of with her friends or with boys, and she starts talking about her list of reasons of why this particular event is one she just can't miss out on, or how these friends are such great students and possessing of stellar morals, dredging up everything they've ever done that could be twisted into the light of looking like a good deed, until I end up looking overprotective and even heartless to not let her spend time with them. I try to tell her that I don't want her dating until she is sixteen, and that any boy she dates, I want to first become involved with her through getting to know our family too, and Jessica twists this around to make me look like I'm just old-fashioned, out of touch, and crippling her to the point that she will never be able to find a boy that will match up to these standards. Not only that, she has to make it look like I'm sexist too.

"You don't make ASHER do all those things," she always says in that righteous tone of voice that can make my blood boil in less time than it takes to so much as smile. "Just because Asher is a BOY, you don't make HIM do any of that, Mom! I can't help it that I'm a girl!"

What's really frustrating is that she's convinced her father that she's right, that I'm just unreasonable and out of touch of how things should be for teenagers today. Richard thinks that I'm harder on Jessica than I am on Asher, that I should be treating them both the same. What Richard doesn't seem to understand is we SHOULDN'T be treating them the same. Asher and Jessica are not the same or even in the same situation. Asher is older, seventeen, not fifteen, and Asher doesn't jump around from older girl to older girl like Jessica seems to like to do with boys. And whatever Jessica fusses around saying about sexism, I should treat her different because she IS a girl.

It's not about sexism, it's about being practical and safe. Jessica is underage, Jessica is 5'4 and 115 pounds, and I wouldn't call her the most logical and mature child alive. She's not a stupid girl at all- in fact, she has a B average and could probably do better if she tried. But Asher is the smarter of the two, I won't lie about that. And I know my daughter enough to know that if her friends are drinking or smoking or whatever else, she'll probably be right in there with them. And it's not Asher who can get pregnant.

Angelica I don't worry about, which is another thing Jess likes to throw into my face whenever yet another argument crops up. Angelica, I pretty much allow to come and go as she wants. But Angelica is only thirteen, Angelica is still in middle school. The parties Angelica goes to are supervised by parents and attended by only girls her age, and I drop her off and pick her up from them. Angelica has no boyfriend and as far as I know, has never had more than a giggly middle schooler's crush on any boy. And Angelica, like Asher, is a different child. I can trust that what Angelica tells me is the truth with no important parts deleted from it, and I can trust that if Angelica is uncomfortable with a situation, she won't give in to peer pressure. I can trust that Angelica will FEEL uncomfortable with unsavory situations.

But it's not the same with Jessica as her brother and sister, and it's so damn frustrating that Richard, who isn't even around to deal with her when she's at her worst, can't trust that I know what I'm talking about.

"You do have different rules for her, Renee," he's told me before, "How can you expect Jess not to be resentful if you say one thing to Ash or Angel and another to her?"

I don't EXPECT her not to be…I just wish she would obey. It would make life that much simpler.

But of course, simple doesn't happen when you have children, let alone a teenage daughter, though I guess I'm supposed to take that back, given that Angelica just became a teenager too. Somehow I just don't think it will be the same with her as with Jess though.

By 12:30 I was more than annoyed; I was angry. Jessica could have no excuses for this. Her brother had turned out his light a few minutes ago, presumably to go to sleep, and Angelica had been asleep for over an hour now. And still the streets were silent, as was our telephone. She hadn't even bothered to call, and of course she hadn't answered any of my calls. What did she think she was doing?

And of course, her father wasn't home to see this…Richard was on yet another of his business trips, probably sleeping too like most sane people by this point. If I called him now, or even if I told him about it the next morning, he wouldn't have the same reaction, and it wouldn't have the same impact, as if he were here watching this happen with me. Why was he NEVER here when Jessica did this? Or did she deliberately do it only when he wasn't home?

The TV was on, but I couldn't concentrate on anything being said. I was seething with resentment towards her, planning everything I would do the moment she stepped through the door. First, there would be no more worries over her not answering her phone, because it would be taken from her. No access to computer either, except for school work, and I would time how long she was on each day and check her history. No parties, no sleepovers, no being picked up and dropped off for school by Ryan each day- Asher could drive her, if I wasn't available, just like he drove her sister. And speaking of Ryan- he was completely off limits. Jess had never done this so often before him, and he was obviously the line connecting the dots.

When I think now of how angry I was with her, of how it never even crossed my mind that something could have happened…when I think of how I had no idea what had happened, of how she was hurting…I go cold all over. How could I not have sensed it, how could I not have KNOWN what had happened to my baby?

I never did hear a car pull up the driveway, and I found out later that this was because no one dropped Jessica off. Instead, when I heard the sound of the front door opening, and Jessica's stumbling footsteps inside, I got up off the couch immediately and started to head her off before she could attempt to sneak upstairs to her room, starting to name my punishment before I even had named the crime.

"That's it, Jessica. Do you realize what time it is? You're grounded. That means no phone, no internet, no TV, no visits with Hayley or Cassie, and no, absolutely NO dates with that Ryan. You have to-"

But then I looked at her, really looked at her, and cut myself off mid sentence, my heart leaping to my throat. Because Jessie was standing there with torn, grass-stained pants and bloody knees, one elbow stained with blood and grass as well, her hair loose and disheveled down her back. Her shirt was misbuttoned, her bra strap showing, and the look on her face…the pain in my baby's eyes…looking at her then, even before I knew what had happened, before I could make myself even consider the thought, I could barely breathe.

"Jessie," I said slowly, stepping forward, reaching out to brush her cheek with my face. Her muscle jerked, and she let out a breath halfway between a gasp and a sob, her chest heaving. Her eyes skipped away, but not before I saw the tears standing. "What happened? What…"

And that was when my baby looked up at me and spoke the words that changed our lives forever.

"Mom…Mom….I was raped."