Nerd Romance — “What ARE Your Intentions Toward My Daughter?”

More chats with the parents

This is yet another chapter in a series I “finished” last year, but my characters kept talking to me. Then Roz Warren convinced me into fill out the series into a book, so now I’m working on that. Most of what I’ve been doing lately has been filling in gaps or adding to existing material, but this chapter felt like it could stand without the reader having just finished the one before.

Short summary of the story to date:

The series covers two academic over-achievers with limited social skills (aka “nerds”) in the last semester of their junior year in high school in the 1970s. They call each other by their initials, so she is “E” and he is “K.” They were engaged in a “practice” relationship, working from an agreed upon list of goals, trying to learn to be more like regular people before they head off to college. Both kids agreed that this is a mutually beneficial partnership, and not in any way a romantic association.

Which worked really well. Until it didn’t.

They arranged a clandestine camping trip, during which they planned to have sex. The planned beautiful spring night actually was cold, wet, and awful, so while they did admit to falling in love with each other and shared a sleeping bag, that’s as far as things got. They also decided that the “practice” part of the practice relationship was over, and they were going to be actual boyfriend and girlfriend. That fell apart for a few days, and then everything came together and so did they, having sex in the guest room at K’s house while his parents were out of town. On a school night. So there was a frantic rush to get E home before anyone got suspicious. Didn’t quite work; E’s dad figured it out immediately (but E didn’t tell K that), and when K got home he found his sister had covered up the “crime scene” so their parents wouldn’t suspect.

So now the kids just have to act like nothing has happened. So that none of the parental units start asking embarrassing questions. So… yeah, that should be easy…

“So how have you been doing?” E’s dad had a very warm, welcoming way about him. Even when he was kidding, his smile and the twinkles in his eyes always made K feel like he was part of the joke. Unlike, say, his own father, whose protests of “I was just kidding!” after a cutting remark at his son’s expense always felt more like he’d been caught by Mom than honest declarations.

Nevertheless, K felt nervous.

Everything is great, Dr. W., I haven’t got your daughter pregnant yet or anything. Always used a condom, yup, very responsible, that’s me. K worked on keeping his face at the “absolutely no worries” expression he had worked on with E. (“I have coached freshmen who never trod the boards before who could do better than that,” opined his girlfriend. “Maybe, when anyone gets suspicious, I can start a fire or something and you can run away in the confusion.”) He started to take a deep breath, stopped (“Don’t take a deep breath every time, doofus! It looks like you’re hiding something!” “But aren’t I? We? Us? Hiding something?” Which got him an eye roll and a punch on the arm), and went with, “Been doing fine, sir! Yup. Getting close to finals, looking pretty good. Me and your daughter. Both. Grade-wise, I mean.” Shut up, shut up, she’s going to kill you! She can’t hear us from the kitchen, right? E was helping her mother, while K and E’s dad enjoyed the spring air while sitting on their three-season porch, so she was definitely out of earshot. K rubbed his upper arm in anticipation anyway.

E’s dad winced in sympathy. “I’m sorry about that. That’s my fault, y’know. I was the one who taught her to do that.” When K looked confused, the older man gestured at the younger’s arm. “The arm smacks, I mean. That was me.” He smiled with the memories. “When she was younger, she would get so frustrated sometimes. Maybe it was with me, maybe it was her mother or sister, maybe it was just something she was trying to do, but she would start to boil up inside. And she would stay that way, like there was no way to let off steam. So I told her that when she felt like that, like she was going to explode or something, I told her she should just smack me on the arm, as hard as she could, and that would make everything better, that she would feel better. And she didn’t have to worry about hurting me, because if she smacked someone she loved on the arm, it would never actually hurt.” Her dad grinned. “Of course, that works best when the subject is only four years old and skinny for her age. Later, I had to provide amendments, such as it only worked if she smacked men she loves — that was necessary after Melissa came crying to me because her younger sister had walloped her — and it only worked if she smacked them on the biceps or triceps, not the lower arm.” He flexed his arms. “I’m not as well-muscled up there as I used to be, I’m afraid. Just as well that she’s gotten less enthusiastic as she’s gotten older.”

Speak for yourself, Doc! “I dunno, sir, your daughter has demonstrated her right hook on me way too many times for me to underestimate her. Actually, she favors her right, but she usually just goes for whatever arm is closer!” K moved both arms around, as if comparing the relative amounts of damage. “Yep, about equal pain, I’d say!”

That got a warm smile from E’s dad. “Well, yes. Because even though she knows better, she still feels like she can’t hurt a man she loves when she smacks his arm. By the time she realizes, it’s probably too late for you. Mmmm?”

Oh crap, he knows! K coughed. Somewhat unnecessarily. “Ahhhh… Dr. W., um, there’s something — ”

Her dad waved him down. “It’s fine, it’s fine, I have become aware that you two are, ah, no longer in a, um, ‘practice relationship’ any longer.” He gave K a very large grin. “So, young man, I believe the next question I am required by custom to ask is: what are your intentions toward my daughter?”

E came in at the last sentence. “Daddy! Stop it! You’re going to give him a heart attack or something.” She sat on the couch next to her boyfriend and addressed him. “What’s he been saying to you?”

K looked at her with a certain dread. More as a new attack vector than a possible rescue. “He’s been explaining why I lose the use of one of my arms periodically.”

“And,” her father interjected, “that you only do it to men you love.” He grinned again. “Although I do not think I was telling your young man anything he did not already know?” He raised his eyebrows at K.

Okay. Here we go. Should I talk to E first, or go for it? He took a deep breath. Here we go. “I think you should know, sir, that I love your daughter very, very much, and I would like to make her my regular girlfriend, and I promise I will never do anything that might ever hurt her.” Okay, that came out well! He looked to E for confirmation.

E was staring at him over her glasses. “Did I actually just hear you ask for permission from my father to make me your girlfriend? You want to court me, or something? Because this is, what, the 1770s, not the 1970s? Are you going to ask how many sheep are in my dowry?” She collapsed backward against the couch and looked to heaven for strength. “Boys are such idiots!

Her father stood up, walked over to the couch, leaned over to kiss his daughter on the forehead, and walked out of the room, calling over his shoulder, “I’m going to see how your mother is doing in the kitchen.”

K turned to smile at E. “That went well! I don’t think he knows.”

E started to punch him on the arm and stopped at the last second. “Of course he knows, you moron, he’s known since that night. He figured it out when I came through the door glowing and smelling like sex. He isn’t the one we need to worry about, it’s Mom.” She stood up and pulled her boyfriend up with her, then saw his expression. “Oh, stop the panic! It’s fine. You told Dad just the right thing.” She gave him a firm kiss. “I love you very, very much too, y’know. Now put on your ‘absolutely no worries’ face and let’s go have dinner.”

As they started to leave the porch K whispered, “I thought your mom liked me now!” I have not seen any sign of that personally, but I thought she said —

E stopped and looked at him. “I said she’s gotten used to you. Not the same thing! Dad likes you. A lot. But that’s because you make his younger daughter very, very happy. Mom… doesn’t like you yet, because you…” She screwed up her face and waved her hands around in frustration. “…make her daughter very happy? I dunno. Not the problem right now. C’mon! Face! Absolutely no worries! Dinner!” She took her boyfriend by the arm and walked him toward the kitchen.

Hallway traffic was usually low in this part of the school at this time of day, so E saw the school nurse coming well before they got close. Crap! Do I say something? Well, yes, idiot, it’s your boyfriend’s mom, only a jerk would ignore her. Oh god, has K spilled the beans yet? He would, he’d somehow let his mother know what’s going on and then he’d forget to tell me. “Hi, Mrs. P.!”

K’s mother look startled, as if E had suddenly teleported into the hall. “Oh! Hello, dear, I’m sorry, my mind was a thousand miles away. How are you doing? We’ve missed you at dinner this last week or two.”

Just a little nervous eating at your place since I had sex with your son in your guest room, is all. We’ll get over that, at some point. I guess. “Sorry, Mrs. P., just busy is all. My dad is grading papers from his undergrads and I help him with that, keeping track of grades and all. But I’ll be over there, finals are going to be hitting us soon and K and I will be quizzing each other.” And I don’t mean that as a euphemism!

“I’m glad! This whole practice relationship thing has been so good for him! It really has him thinking about other people — well, you, mostly, of course — and it’s made him behave in ways that I think are very appropriate for his age. In terms of consideration of you, I mean.”

E chuckled. “Oh yes, he told me about how you encouraged him to be supportive of me during my period. Even keeping tampons in his wallet!” And how would that work, exactly?

The older woman’s eyes widened. “Oh! Oh dear! That — I didn’t actually mean that literally. It was more a… more a metaphor, really. Keeping tampons in a guy’s wallet rather than condoms.”

Which, by the way, he really is keeping in his wallet now. The condoms. Oops. “Um, I — ” Love your son dearly. No no, don’t go there. “ — think the world of your son, but, ah, how shall I put this?”

“He doesn’t always do metaphors well?” The two women shared a smile.

“But he has his moments!” And I plan to enjoy lots of them this summer!

His mother chuckled. “He does indeed! I’m sorry, dear, I need to get going. See you again soon, I hope!” She started down the hall in her original direction.

“Bye, Mrs. P.!” Well that went well! I think we’re going to be fine.

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Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.

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Jack Herlocker

Jack Herlocker

Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.

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