Disclaimers: Scarecrow and Mrs. King belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot The Moon Enterprises, and not to me.

Notes : Originally posted on the Wicklow Place Group as a story challenge. Thanks to Cheryl for providing the challenge line

Conversations

Thursday, March 21, 2002

4:15 PM

"Dad, I'm really sorry," Jenna said as she climbed into the Corvette, still holding her book bag.

"Oh really," Lee said. "Are you sorry that you said it or just sorry that I heard you?" Jenna said nothing in reply, just stared down at her hands.

"Buckle your seat belt and put your bag on the floor," Lee said. "We'll talk about this when we get home."

"Okay," Jenna said, her voice almost a whisper. As they pulled out of the parking lot, Jenna did what she usually did and reached her hand over towards the radio knob.

"No music, Jenna," Lee said. "Not now." Jenna pulled her hand back and put it in her lap. She turned her face away from Lee's and looked out the window.

My little girl, Lee thought. Or at least she used to be. It seemed like only yesterday that they'd been watching The Wizard of Oz together and having tea parties in the family room with Jenna's stuffed animals and her favorite Scarecrow doll. Now Jenna was thirteen and things were definitely changing. The walls of her room were covered with photos from various teen magazines and Jenna seemed to spend most of her spare time on the phone with Lisa or Christy, giggling about boys. To top it all off, Amanda had told him that she was going to take Jenna to buy her first bra, a fact that Lee could have lived the rest of his life without knowing. What was it that Amanda had once said about Jenna turning thirteen?

It only gets harder from here.

Stopped at the red light, Lee looked over at his daughter, who was still silent and looking out the window.

"Jenna look at me," Lee said, and Jenna ignored him. Lee raised his voice slightly. "Jenna Leigh Stetson, look at me right now."

Jenna looked at him. Her dark eyes, so much like her mother's, were brimming with tears and she was biting down hard on her lower lip.

"Can you at least tell me what possessed you to say such a thing?" Lee said. The light turned green. "I mean, why would you even-why?"

Jenna took a deep breath. "It's a long story," she said.

"I have time," Lee said.

"Okay," Jenna said. "Well there's a new boy in our school –he's from Italy and his name is Romeo Pelucci. All the girls think he's really cute and I guess he is, but he's not really my type-"

"I get it," Lee said, not wanting to hear the rest. Since when did Jenna have 'types'? "So what happened with this Romeo?" He said.

"Terri Morgan and a couple of her friends," Jenna said, as Lee turned onto Maplewood. "They dared me to go up and say something to Romeo."

"And you just had to take this dare, right?" Lee said.

"She said if I didn't that she'd call me a gimpy chicken." Jenna said. "And she would, too."

Lee pulled to a stop right outside the house.

"A gimpy chicken?" he said "Jenna, you only have a little bit of a limp left and even that's barely noticeable You're back on the dance team now-you shouldn't even care what Terri Morgan thinks." Lee remembered that girl's mother, Debbie Morgan, from the time he'd worked with Amanda on The Nutcracker. If the daughter was anything at all like the mother she was probably a real witch.

"I know," Jenna said. "I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I still care-especially when everyone else cares too."

"Taking dares will only get you into trouble, believe me." Lee said, giving an inward wince as he remembered the dares he took when he was younger.

"I know that now," Jenna said.

"So you took this dare," Lee said. "And you went up to him and said-that."

"I said 'Hey, Romeo, you forgot to zip your fly'," Jenna said in a low voice, her cheeks bright red. . Lee touched his daughter's hand briefly.

"Let's go inside," he said. "We're going to tell your mother and have a nice long talk about this."


SMK SMK SMK SMK

"Amanda I can't believe this," Lee said, looking at his wife as she bustled around the kitchen. He'd ordered Jenna to her bedroom, telling her to think about what she'd done and that they'd be up there to talk to her shortly. "I can't believe you're taking this so lightly."

"Lee I'm not taking it lightly," Amanda said as she took the cookies out of the oven and placed the cookie sheet on the countertop to cool. "I just think that you might be overreacting a little, that's all."

"Overreacting? I'm overreacting? Amanda I was standing right there," Lee said. "I saw my little-my daughter- walk right over to that boy and say-"

"-hey, Romeo, you forgot to zip your fly," Amanda said, finishing his sentence. "And Jenna says that Terri Morgan dared her to say that or she'd call her a gimpy chicken."

"Yes, but that's not the point," Lee said.

"Well you know how sensitive Jenna is about her leg," Amanda said. "She doesn't even like to wear shorts now because she's afraid of the scar showing."

"Amanda that still doesn't excuse what she did," Lee said. "We have to do something to stop this right now, before it gets any worse."

Amanda pulled some milk out of the fridge and poured a glass, putting some cookies on a small desert plate. "Well what do you recommend?" She said. "Grounding her for a month? Clapping her in irons? Putting her in an Agency Holding Cell until she reaches eighteen? "

"A-man-da!" Lee said. "Now you're just being silly."

"I know you don't want to hear this, Lee," Amanda said. "Because I know that in your mind she's still an innocent little girl. But Jenna's growing up. This incident is far from the worst thing she's ever going to do. Just wait until she starts dating."

Lee sank down into a kitchen chair, his head in his hands. "No! I don't even want to think about it," he said, raking his fingers back through his hair. "Isn't there some way to stop Jenna from growing until I can adjust to this?"

"Lee, no one has that much time," Amanda said, a hint of laughter in her voice as she rubbed his back. "Come on, Stetson. Let's go talk to her together."

SMK SMK SMK SMK

Through the half-open door Lee could see that Jenna was curled up on her bed, holding her Scarecrow doll. When she heard their footsteps she put the doll down and sat up.

"Hi," she said, wiping at her eyes, which were slightly red and puffy-looking.

"Hi sweetheart," Amanda said, handing Jenna the milk and cookies, "We thought you might like some of these."

"Thanks," Jenna said, putting the plate on her lap and taking a sip of the milk. "Am I in trouble?" She asked.

"Not exactly," Amanda said, giving Lee a warning look when he tried to interject. "We just want to talk to you about what you said."

"What I said was stupid," Jenna said. "I certainly felt stupid after I said it, Mom- I couldn't even look Romeo in the face and Terri and her friends all laughed at me. And then when dad overheard that was the worst thing of all."

Amanda sat beside Jenna and pulled her daughter against her side, kissing the top of Jenna's head.

"Sweetheart I know," she said. "But you also know that you can't take a dare because someone pressures you or threatens to tease you, right?"

"I know," Jenna said. "I'll try not to, I promise." She looked up at Lee and then back over to Amanda. "Is Dad still mad at me?"

"'Dad' is right here," Lee said, sitting on the bed on the other side of Jenna. "And no, I'm not mad at you, munchkin. I just want you to be careful about what you say to boys, okay? They might get the wrong idea about-" he struggled for the right words. "-about what kind of girl you are."

"You mean they might think I'm cheap or easy?" Jenna said.

"Where on earth did you pick up a phrase like that?" Lee said.

"From Francine," Jenna said.

"Well, Francine could've worded it a little better," Lee said, forcing himself to breathe normally as he spoke. "But yeah, that's basically it. They might think that you maybe want to kiss them, or-" there was no good way to finish this sentence and Amanda was looking at him curiously. "They just might get the wrong idea about you, that's all," Lee finished lamely. "Do you understand?"

"I understand," Jenna said, "And Romeo is definitely not a guy I would ever want to kiss. I hear that he has chapped lips."

"Well that's good to know, sweetheart," Amanda said, giving Jenna a hug. "Why don't you do your homework up here and dinner will be ready in about an hour, okay?"

"Okay," Jenna said. "Thanks Mom. And dad-thank you too."

"Hey, don't mention it," Lee said, ruffling Jenna's hair and making her smile. He stood up as he and Amanda left the room and closed the door behind him. And what Jenna had said about Romeo's lips didn't hit him until he reached the bottom of the stairs.

"Amanda?" he said. "You don't think that Jenna has ever-you know-kissed a boy-do you?"

His wife's laughter was the only response.

The End