Michelle took Naomi's silence for confusion and continued, explaining.

"The magazine said you're supposed to see your dentist for a proper fit, but I don't see what dental work has to do with sex."

Naomi's mouth dropped open at the term dental dam, and stayed open.

Oh my god.

Now it was Naomi's turn to be uncomfortable.

With effort she managed to close her mouth. She swallowed, stammered, then decided to just let whatever was in her brain come out in a professional doctor manner. That way, she wouldn't kill this child.

"You've said some very good, very smart things there, Michelle. You realize that oral sex is still a form of sex. That's good, a lot of older girls think it has nothing to do with sex. And you're clearly informing yourself about different forms of protection, that's very good, Michelle."

Naomi realized that she was shaking, along with her voice. She couldn't help it. All she could feel was panic. Sheer panic.

"How old are you again?"

"Eleven."

"Can I ask you what made you think about all this?"

"The kids at school. Everyone does it."

Naomi closed her eyes and slowly exhaled, reminding herself to breathe. Just focus on breathing. Do not freak out. Just breathe.

"I mean, I think it's stupid," Michelle was continuing on, but to Naomi her voice sounded far away. "But now I'm like a total loser because I don't even have a boyfriend. Which I think is stupid too. I mean, the girls that have boyfriends, they are "a couple" for maybe three days, then they break up and go with some other boy."

"And," Naomi was afraid to ask, "what do the girls and boys do with each other? Make out?"

Michelle shrugged. "Something like that."

Naomi sat up straighter, her panic at a child speaking of adult matters turning to true concern.

"Michelle, I need you to be more specific. I can't help you if I don't have all the information."

"Well, everyone does it. They all do."

"Does what? Do you mean sex?"

"Yeah, and that other stuff. I think it's gross."

She leaned closer to Michelle, her body feeling tense as if ready to fight.

"What's gross?"

She squirmed. "You know," she answered clearly embarrased.

"No, no, I don't think I do."

"You know," Michelle squirmed again and looked away, "that thing boys like."

"Boys like a lot of things."

Michelle's eyes widened horrified. "Oh great, now there's more stuff I have to know about?!"

Naomi felt pained for her. "No, no sweetie," she assured her. If what she thought was happening in that school was happening, there was a serious public health problem on the rise.

"Michelle, sweetie, just tell me what you meant. What "other things" do the boys and girls do at your school besides kiss?"

"Usually they make out all the time. They used to make out in the bathrooms, but the teachers caught on and now there's always someone watching the bathrooms."

"But when adults aren't around, they do...other things."

"What other things?"

"I don't know if I can tell you."

"You can talk to me, Michelle."

"You'll tell my mom," she insisted, "you'll get me in trouble."

"I promise you I will not tell your mother. Michelle, I need to know. What other things do the kids do?"

"Well, that's why I wanted to ask you about getting a dental dam. Because that's what the girls do," she added, "for the boys. Only, the magazine said you're supposed to use a dental dam, but I know the girls don't. Probably because you have to go somewhere besides Walgreens to get one, and they don't have the money or just don't want to get in trouble."

"What do the girls do?"

"You know, that nasty stuff. It's disgusting. I don't see why anyone would want to-"

"Are you talking about oral sex?" Saying the words to Michelle made Naomi want to vomit. "When a boy puts his penis in a girl's mouth?"

Michelle made a face as if she were seeing something horrible. Naomi was happy to note it was the response that a girl her age should have to sexual matters. "It's disgusting."

"Is that what the girls and boys at your school do?"

She nodded. "When they're not having sex. Some of the girls won't have sex because they don't want to get pregnant, but the boys expect something or they'll break up with you. And oral sex isn't that bad I guess. At least, you can't get pregnant from it."

Naomi felt as if she were falling down a dark hole, with nothing solid underneath to catch her.

"Do the boys and girls use condoms?"

"For that kind of sex? No."

Oh no.

"They don't have to worry about getting the girl pregnant. And it, "defeats the purpose". The boys don't like to wear condoms anyway."

"It's not like it's that hard to do, probably, but I still think it's disgusting."

"So, you don't want to have oral sex with the boys?"

She wrinkled her nose. "No."

"But you came to me to ask about getting a dental dam, which is something that every girl should use if she's planning on oral sex."

"I don't even want to go out with boys," she admitted. "But I'm a total prude if I don't, so I figure I might as well prepare for the inevitable."

"Michelle, you're eleven years old. That is way too young to be thinking about sex, any kind of sex. In my opinion it's too young to even be dating."

"What's that?"

She laughed. "You know, dating, when a boy and girl go to the movies together or get pizza, hang out and get to know each other."

"And then they have sex?" Michelle asked.

"No," Naomi winced. "Then they go to their separate homes."

"No sex?"

"No sex."

Michelle blinked. "What's the point then?" I don't know anyone who does that. If you go with a boy some kind of sex, or at the very least sucking face is promised to happen."

Naomi was confused. "You said all the girls and boys in your class are going out."

"Yeah, they go places and make out or have sex with each other."

"Is that all they do together?"

"What else would they do? What's the point of going out with someone if you don't plan on having sex? Or at least making out?"

"And," she continued, "If you're going to have sex, or go down on him, or suck face, you might as well do it and get it over with. So what was supposed to happen at the end of your time together, is just what happens as soon as you get together alone, and then when you've done it, there's no point in staying. You did what you came to do, so then you leave."

Naomi had to look away. Get ahold of yourself. This child clearly does not know any better. My god, what the heck has Madeline been teaching her? She shook her head. Nothing, probably.

"I had no idea so many students in your class would be sexually active."

She shrugged.

"And just who are the girls in your class going out with? You mentioned that they seem to switch boyfriends every week or so."

"Well it started out with them going out with kids in our grade. But now most of the girls go out with boys in 8th grade or 7th grade. They ran out of sixth grade boys."

"What about the boys in your class?"

"I guess I get to take my pick," she answered ruefully, with no joy in that fact. "No one else is dating them."

"Michelle, I'm concerned for you, and for the other children at your school. If these children are having unprotected sex- and oral sex without a condom or other protection, the kids at your school are in serious danger of contracting and easily spreading sexually transmitted diseases."

"Oh, most of the girls already have those, or have had them," she answered quickly as if Naomi had just said something beyond obvious.

"But if you have an STD and so does the boy you're sleeping with, what's the big deal? It's like being around someone that has the flu, when you already have the flu yourself. It's not like you can get it twice."

"Michelle, do you know the names of any of the sexually transmitted diseases these children claim to have?"

"Ghonorreah. Or the clap, usually."

Naomi was horrified.

"Thank you for telling me this," she breathed trying to get control of her emotions.

"Michelle I think you're very smart to not want to go out with anyone right now. You don't have to go out with any of these boys if you don't want to, and it honestly doesn't seem like you do."

'I don't," Michelle agreed. "But I don't want to be a loser for all the rest of sixth grade. And, I want to be prepared."

"More than I can say for those other poor children," Naomi whispered. What she said for Michelle's ears was,

"that's very smart. But you usually don't want to stock up on supplies until you're ready. And until you understand all the risks that being in a sexual relationship entails, you're not ready for it. And There's no law that says you have to go out. There should be much more important things in your life right now, such as your education, and your friends."

"The few losers like me who aren't spending their time with boys?"

Naomi let out a breath. This conversation needed to be a lot longer.

"Michelle, would you like me to give you a ride home? I'd like to talk to you some more about this, but I'd like some time to think over the things you've told me. Would that be okay?"

"I guess so."

"Good," she smiled. "Wait here for a minute, I'll be right back."

Quickening her steps she made for the stairs and walked up to Charlotte King's office.

Without bothering to knock like a polite person, Naomi pushed the door open, finding Charlotte King's eyes across the room.

"Charlotte, we need to talk."