This story deals with a very real problem in our society—the sexual abuse of a minor. It in no way glorifies or condones but treats it as the heinous crime that it is. Before even writing this story, I checked with Laurel and made sure I followed the guidelines she provided so please don’t go reporting it. If this subject is offensive to you, please take a pass. Thank you.
“Ahhh, son-of-a-b...” Tom cursed out loud from frustration. Between three days of solid rain and the melting snow, half the streets in Chicago were closed because of flooding. It was like driving through a watery maze just to find his way onto the expressway only to discover his exit was now closed as well. He had no choice but to keep going and hope the next one was passable.
Inwardly he told himself to relax. Hell, it wasn’t as if he had someone at home waiting for him. So it took him an extra half hour to get home—big deal. It wasn’t like his wife had dinner waiting or his daughter was waiting for help with her homework. That life ended almost a year ago for him. Still, he was relieved with the absence of a ‘Road Closed’ sign as he came up on the next exit.
He was still choreographing his car through the suburban streets when he heard his phone ringing from his pocket. “Sorry, you’re going to have to wait until I can find my way home through his mess,” he said. “Damn, I’ve got to stop talking to myself,” he continued. “People are going to think I’m going bonkers.”
Finally, he thought, as he pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex. It had taken him an hour and twenty minutes to make a thirty-five minute drive. He pulled the collar of his coat over his head as he made a mad dash between rain drops, splashing his way to the front door.
He took off his coat and hung it up. He was tired and exasperated, but most of all depressed. He just wasn’t himself these days. Since his divorce things seemed to be drifting slowing down hill. Even his photography business wasn’t living up to its potential ... not to mention his daughter was getting more and more moody on her bi-weekly visits ... almost like she didn’t want to be with him anymore. She had a new daddy now and evidently the bastard was winning her over. Out of all the things that had happened over the past year, that was by far the hardest to deal with.
Tom was in the middle of eating dinner when he remembered his phone ringing earlier. He pulled it from his pocket and checked the display. It was Angela, his ex. He wasn’t about to eat cold fish so he put off calling her back until he was done.
He rinsed his plate, stuck it in the dishwasher, and poured himself a cup of coffee before getting comfortable in his recliner. He really didn’t feel like talking to his ex but she only called on issues concerning their daughter so he knew he had to do it.
She sounded friendly enough when she answered. “Hi Tom, thanks for calling back.”
“Yeah, no problem. What’s the matter?”
He heard a small sigh into the phone. He guessed, from the flat tone of his voice, she knew he wasn’t interested in small talk and he sure as hell didn’t want to talk about the weather.
“I was wondering if Lana has said anything to you about something troubling her.”
“To me? No. She hardly speaks to me at all these days. Whatever you’re filling her head with seems to be working, congratulations.”
“Tom, what are you talking about? Filling her head with what?”
“How should I know with what?”
“Tom, okay we’ve had our differences but you can’t believe I’d try to poison our daughter against you.”
“Oh come on, Angie, you’ve got a new husband, she’s got a new daddy, I’m just the inconvenient ex-husband; get her to reject me and you can all live as one big happy family with me out of the way.”
“Tom, Dayton is not my husband, at least not yet. And you’re the only daddy Lana has.”
“He’s living in the same house, isn’t he ... sharing your bed?”
In the two or three second delay from the other end of the phone he could almost hear her blood-pressure going up. “Fuck you!” she yelled before the line went dead.
Tom took a sip of coffee and stretched back. About the only fun in life he had anymore was making his ex-wife mad. Did he really think she was trying to poison his little girl against him ... maybe. He wasn’t sure what she’d do these days. He sure didn’t expect her to move someone into the house so soon after he moved out. Nobody falls in love that quickly—unless they had been seeing each other before he even filed for divorce. That would sure explain the lack of sex, her short temper and her always picking fights with him when they were still married. He had absolutely no proof that she was cheating on him, with this guy or anyone else, but it sure seemed logical and it galled him something terrible.
His mind was churning. I suppose I’ll never know the truth, he thought. Oh well, what difference does it make now. She and shithead will soon be happily married and she’s moving on with her life ... which is what I need to do!
Tom closed his eyes and went over the events of the last year in his mind. In the beginning he felt liberated when they split up; no more constant fighting. Of course it would be hard on Lana but he was confident they’d both work hard to make sure she knew they both still loved her very much.
At first he wasn’t too crazy about the divorce settlement, but after he thought about it, he knew it was for the best. She got the bulk of the savings and the house in trade for giving up any claim on the business. What the hell, that way Lana would still be able to go to the same school, have the same friends, and live in the same house she’d lived in all her life. Child support was reasonable...
Things actually didn’t seem to be that bad until she moved her boyfriend in. It was hard enough to think of the guy sleeping with his wife in his bed, but becoming a father figure to HIS daughter ... that was the kicker that started it all. That’s when he started to feel that his whole life was nothing but a waste. That’s when he started feeling depressed all the time.
What’s happened to me? He asked his inner-self. I used to be a confident, take charge kind of guy. I’ve got to stop laying around feeling sorry for myself. I’ve got to prove to Lana that I’m still her dad and always will be.
He thought more of the short conversation he’d just had with Angela. It starts this weekend, he promised himself. If something is bothering Lana it’s my job as her dad to find out what it is.
He had tried a few times over the past several months to raise himself out of his funk but it didn’t last. He’d sink right back down every time he wondered what was going on in his former house ... with his former family. Okay ... maybe his marriage was dead but by God he was still a dad and he made a vow then and there that he was going to start acting like it. Time for mourning was over.
Now ... if he could only get the bloody rain to stop!
That Saturday morning he pulled into his former driveway right on time. At least it had finally stopped raining. Lana looked unenthused as she exited the house and started for the car.
He rolled the driver’s window down. “Honey, would you ask your mother to come outside for a minute, please. I want to talk to her.”
She turned around, opened the front door wide enough to stick her head inside and yelled. “Mom, dad wants to talk to you.” With no more fan-fair, Lana walked around the front of the car to the passenger’s side and slipped in.
“How you doing, pumpkin?” Tom asked with a kiss on her cheek.
A flat, “Okay,” was her only response.
They sat and waited in silence for another minute or so until he saw Angela step outside wearing a coat. He got out of the car and approached her on the porch. “Listen, I wanted to say I’m sorry for the other night. You caught me in a bad mood.”
She acknowledged his apology with nothing more than a slight nod of her head. She was letting him know she was still pissed.
“So, it sounds like she’s acting the same way here as she’s been acting with me. Over the last few weekends she’s hardly said twenty words to me.”
“She seems really depressed lately,” said Angela, breaking her short-term silent treatment. “She won’t talk, she hardly eats anything. I know she’s losing weight, I can see it. I’ve tried just talking to her about school, friends, just stuff in general, but she refuses to carry on any kind of conversation. After dinner she goes up to her room and stays there. I’m really getting worried, Tom. I haven’t seen her smile in weeks.”
“She’s probably still pissed at us for breaking up. That has to be traumatic for her.”
“I don’t know. Yeah, she was upset with both of us after you left but she seemed to be dealing with it. All this other stuff started a few months ago.”
“Do you think she’s getting bullied or something at school?”
“I don’t know, Tom, but it’s not getting any better. If anything she’s getting worse.”
“Okay, I thought she was just acting that way around me. Let me see if I can find out anything over the weekend. Maybe she’ll talk to me.”
“I’d appreciate it, thank you. If it continues, I ... I don’t know; maybe we should take her to counseling or a psychiatrist or something.”
“Well, let me see what I can find out first,” he said.
.... There is more of this story ...