by L. Allison Stein
Janine came down the stairs wailing as though there were some kind of emergency, and by the look of her there just might have been: hair all mussed, thickly applied mascara dripping out of her eyes, bra strap ragged and hanging in a giant loop over one shoulder, pajama bottoms dragging over Tigger slippers. She sobbed; huffing, sniffing, snorting; reaching for an embrace from the only other person in the room: her mother. I hugged her confusedly as she trembled in my arms, head tilted into the nook formed out of my neck and shoulder, mouth agape to prolong the noise, webs of saliva stringing together her large front and tiny bottom teeth. "He blocked me," came her explanation, high pitched, whiny, and I knew immediately who she meant by he, feeling a quick rush of relief; I had decided not to quash her fancy, to explain that he was actually some slightly sick, single, lonely, 40-year-old still living at home. I only knew this because I was some slightly frustrated, single, lonely, 53-year-old, going on twelve years without a husband and eight without a date, snooping on my fifteen year old's internet activity - including chatting with those on her contact lists - to keep her safe, only to end up growing close to and nearly falling for the creep who'd been flirting with her until four every morning. I stroked Janine's hair, muttering hollow optimism into her ears, allowing the warm sensation of secret pleasure - simmering gleefully at the prospect of another sensual, midnight conversation - to overlap the guilt of having stolen my daughter's online beau.
L. Allison Stein remains small in stature, but big in heart.