He was still just a boy. That's all Delia could seem to think about as she tried to sleep that night.
She had been grounded. As if that would hold at. all. Collin had always been wrapped around her pinky finger. She was his first daughter, even though he hadn't technically fathered her. His love for her was special. It was a choice, rather than an instinct of biological paternity. She knew what could get out of this with a simple hug and a kiss on the cheek.
She opened her eyes. This wasn't working. She got out of bed and snuck into the kitchen to look for something to snack on.
"Caught you," Collin said from his favorite wingback chair in the living room.
"Does being grounded also mean I have to starve when I'm hungry?"
"Eating out of boredom or frustration does not count, little fox."
When she was little, she would always hide. Collin said she was elusive like a little fox hound, but she'd always come back to her mother's den at the end of the day.
"I don't think I should be grounded when it's you who's been keeping a far bigger secret," she said as she poured herself a bowl of cereal.
He laughed, then said, "You aren't grounded for finding out something I planned to show you eventually."
"Why am I grounded, then?" She ate a spoonful and sat down on the floor at the coffee table.
"You're grounded because..." You've grown up. You're too pretty. You're too close to your closest friend. It all sounded awful and incredibly sexist in his head. "I'm concerned about how you had no hesitation in pulling a teenage boy into a closet."
She was laughing, now.
"You're kidding me, right?"
He raised his eyebrows.
"Dad, Alden doesn't see me that way. He's like my brother. Besides, we can hardly be in the same room for more than an hour without fighting about something stupid."
"So, how do you see him?" Collin was curious about how she'd phrased her defense.
"You said Alden doesn't see you that way. In what way do you see Alden?"
Of course she loved him. She almost didn't have a choice in the matter. And it had nothing to do with the fact that he was the only boy in her life. He could see straight through her. He always had. He knew when she was upset, or scared, or excited about something. He knew what questions to ask, when to ask, and when to keep his stupid mouth shut. He had always yielded to her. How could she ever repay his kindness, thoughtfulness, and selflessness with anything but deep love that scared her to death. Because, who feels this way at fifteen without it being something fleeting? And he was eighteen. He was brilliant. He could leave and see the world any moment he wanted to. He deserved that. Why hadn't he done that yet?
"I'm sorry for asking," Collin said.
He had an inkling that she had a crush, but the look on her face as she sat there and processed her feelings silently made him deeply regret ever asking. She was too grown up for her own good.
"What do you think distracted him enough to let his hand slip with the saw?"
"He told me that he saw Lilly and me playing and it looked like fun," she answered, but had already know that was a lie. She didn't really know what had distracted.
"I'm thinking it was you, plain and simple," Collin said. "So, I just want you to be careful. You're going to have to factor in the facts that you are a teenage girl and he is a teenage boy into your decisions from now on."
"How am I supposed to do that?" She asked.
"Maybe you can start by not pulling him into anymore closets, or being in a room alone together, or holding his damn hand so tightly."
"There's no one else around to be with us twenty-four/seven."
"That isn't true," he replied.
"Mom is super pregnant, plus busy with Lilly. You're in your lab all the time when you aren't building the house. Lu is... Well, I never really know what he does or where he goes when he isn't teaching me."
She had a point. He was screwed.
"I'll be careful, dad," she said and stood up. "You didn't raise me to be stupid."
She bent down to hug him and she kissed his cheek.
She had won, as she always did. She'd be free in the morning and he was left wondering how he'd gotten so old and turned into such a pushover. That's when Molly walked into the room, wiping sleep from her eyes.
"Sweetie, could you come back to bed and talk to the baby? He's kicking me like crazy without you next to us."
This was how.