After the unexpected end of court that morning, Mother took me out to lunch, with shopping to follow.
"So what makes you two think," she asked me during dessert—a decadent tiramisu—"that you can pull anything over on your father and me?"
That was a loaded question if I ever heard one. Tread carefully, Dani.
"Whatever do you mean mother?"
"Don't play coy, Dani, it's unbecoming. I'm giving you a rare chance to speak, woman-to...I mean as adults."
"A new game? What are the rules?"
"You get more like your father every day. What I'm offering you is amnesty. Now spill it."
"Spill what?" I wasn't being coy; I just didn't know which of my plethora of recent indiscretions she was talking about. I'd been on a spree.
"I'm talking about last night." She took a forkful of heaven into her mouth and closed her eyes blissfully.
"How much do you know?"
Maybe Gina spilled the beans.
"Dani, answer in full and truthfully or this will become an investigation. I offered you immunity; you can't hide behind the Fifth Amendment anymore."
She was right. The prohibition on self-incrimination wasn't in force if there were no consequences of your testimony. Damn her. It sucks sometimes to have a mother who is a legal scholar.
"Tammy and I went to a party with Topher." When they have you dead to rights—always plead guilty to a lesser offense; I'd learned that stratagem at my mother's milk.
"Gina went trick-or-treating by herself. She's thirteen Mother. I went by myself at that age."
"You were more responsible than she is."
"What? When has she ever defied you? I've been a lot more of a pain-in-the-ass lately."
"Yes you have. I said you were more responsible, not are. Sixteen-year-olds are always recidivists. It'll be worse when you're nineteen and know-it-all."
"Am I getting to you, Dani?"
She was right, she was playing me. I didn't like it.
"I won't be like that. Okay, I've told you. Now what?"
"What? Then why all the skullduggery?"
"Because now I know, and you can quit worrying about it. Child-of-mine, I'm going to tell you something I probably shouldn't, not at your stage of development: I didn't know anything for sure until you told me, just now."
"You tricked me?"
"Hardly. I outwitted you. I know you feel safe playing fast and loose with mores and folkways because you don't think they're relevant to you, but your weakness is law. I exploited a loophole and you felt compelled to answer."
My mother's powers of deduction were awesome—and scary when turned against me.
I had to tell Gina that Mother had tricked me into narking us out, but she came home and went straight to her room.
She came out for dinner. I could see she'd been crying. Maybe Mother had confronted her already.
Dinner passed in silence, but that wasn't surprising. Daddy and I had an Understanding, and he knew nothing about Gina. Mother and I had a Deal, and it involved ratting out my sister. Gina, for all I knew, was already in trouble and hating me for it.
I excused myself early and waited for her in the bathroom. With luck, she'd have to go. If not, could still probably head her off before she could get to her room. I needed to talk to her, but didn't want there to be a scene.
She came dragging up the stairs and stopped in the bathroom. She looked in the medicine cabinet and rummaged under the sink. She seemed oblivious to my presence.
"Gina," I called to her, and she freaked. She jumped and cussed at me before settling against the door and drawing her knees up close. She hugged them and glowered at me.
She was crying again.
"Gina, I'm sorry."
"Why," she sobbed. "It's not your fault. You couldn't have known. I'm so sorry, Dani..." her voice trailed off.
"It's okay." I moved over to be near her. When I touched her, she hugged me so tight I couldn't breathe.
"Easy baby," I told her, stroking her hair. "I need air."
She didn't let up one bit.
"I'm so sorry," she repeated. "I didn't think it would happen..."
"Didn't think what would happen, Gina?"
Were we talking about the same thing?
"I did it," she explained, as if I knew what it was. "I'd been wondering and then at the hospital they said all that awful stuff. I thought I was ready, but..."
She was crying again.
"It's okay...I've got you. Let's go to your room; we can talk there."
I led her to her room, and locked the door behind us. We sat on the floor on the other side of her bed—out of earshot of the door.
"I'm not sure what you're trying to tell me," I explained as quietly as I could, "what happened?"
"We did it..." he face was a perfect mask of horror.
"Who did what, hon?"
"I didn't go trick-or-treating last night."
"What? I don't understand. You did what with whom last night, Gina?"
"I went with Sanjin instead."
"He's my partner, from dance class."
"You went with a boy in you class, and you didn't go trick-or-treating. What did you do?"
"We went to the studio, and we danced. I watched us in the mirror. He's so beautiful. He moves like a swan."
She was a little calmer now, and the tears had been replaced by an odd smile.
"Okay, and then what?"
"Then," the anxiety was back. "Then..."
"What, Gina? What happened?"
"We had sex."
"WHAT?" I'd yelled in my surprise and hoped nobody else heard it. I didn't see that coming.
"Gina, you're only thirteen. Why?"
"I don't know. I thought I wanted to; I thought I was ready."
"Oh my God, Gina, I can't believe this."
"Wait," I said, trying to sort this out. Maybe there was a misunderstanding. "Sex is a lot of things. What did he do to you?"
"It wasn't like that. He didn't force me, or take advantage. I wanted to."
"Oh." Calm down Dani. This isn't as bad as it seems.
"It started out ballet," she explained. "Then we started slow dancing, only with no music. He liked my costume, and kissed me. I kissed him back."
She seemed pretty wistful about that.
"Okay, then what."
"He unzipped my costume. I didn't have anything on under it."
"I see. Did he stop when you asked him to?"
"I didn't ask him to. I took it off."
"Oh." What the hell? This was my little sister. I'd kill the little twerp when I found out who it was.
"He kissed me all over, and rubbed his hands on me. Dani, it felt so good."
I wasn't sure I was old enough to hear this.
"Go on," I forced myself to say, not sure I could abide what happened next.
"He laid me down and kissed me, down there...oh my God, Dani, I saw stars."
"Gina, what the hell? I didn't even know you had a boyfriend. Okay, was that it?"
"No, we did it. We fucked, Dani."
Was there no decency left in the world? Whatever happened to values? Little sisters weren't supposed to have sex.
"I liked it too, but then I had a cow. I started crying and Sanjin freaked out."
"I don't know what to say, Gina. I think you took it too fast. Maybe you shouldn't have let it go so far. At least you know to use protection."
She looked at her feet.
"You did use a condom, didn't you?"
"No," she cried, "he didn't have one."
"What? Gina, that's insane. Are you trying to get pregnant? No, wait, I shouldn't say that. It's okay. Everything will be fine. What's happened has happened; we'll just have to deal."
"That's easy for you to say, Dani. I had my period two weeks ago."
"Oh my God! Gina, do you think we should tell Mother?"
"What? No, Dani! She'll kill me for sure; Sanjin is seventeen."
"Seventeen? She won't have to kill him, Gina, I will. Shit, what are we gonna do?"
"I was hoping you'd know. You're always so reasonable about these things."
"I don't know what to do, Gina. I'm sorry. When will you know? I mean, if you're..." I couldn't finish the thought.
"When I miss my next period. I'm so screwed Dani. I won't make it two weeks."
"There are other options," I pointed out.
"Not in Missouri." She was right. The VIII Circuit didn't allow abortion, even though two Constitutional Amendments said it was in no uncertain terms.
"It's okay," I told her, patting her hand. "We can go to Illinois. I have some money saved up. If that's what you want."
"Thanks Dani. We'll worry about that when and if. But right now I just want it to all go away."
"We'll be okay," I assured her. "I'll be with you no matter what."