creeping gently over her, up her long legs toward payday and bit o' honey.

'Please, Greg.' She'd try to stop the fingers. 'Please,' she'd beg him with that hot, wet mouth of hers, her face all puffy and slack with desire, red through the tan, wanting him to please please please. 'Please,' she would say over and over.

'Please what?' he'd say, biting her a little as he kissed in all the right places where he could sense a heartbeat, kissing her racing pulse with that Hollywood mouth, putting those California-star lips all over her and searing her skin with the flame of his expert kiss as he laid down his con.

'Oh, please,' she'd whisper back, urgently, letting him explore the newly discovered, uncharted regions with those adventurous fingers of his, and he would tell her, 'Please, baby,' pleasing her right back, giving the old please right back to her. 'You gotta let me, angel, I'm gonna be sick if I don't get off.' And his favorite standby, 'Please let me show you the highest form of love,' he'd say.

His con would echo in her ears and she'd remember his bullshit later. Later when it was too late. Later, when the most romantic thing he'd ever say to her was 'Let's do lines.'

But for now she was caught up in his carefully crafted romance. Greg had been put off over and over. There was a limit to how long he'd stand for it. He was the cutest boy in school and all the girls were doing it now. Lots of better-looking girls than Tiff would hop into bed with Greg in a second if he even blinked at them. And she was afraid if she said no much longer she would lose him.

'Please, baby. Please.' Those hot fingers were moving and she wanted him. Why lie to herself?

'Don't.' She pushed him back a little. 'Just listen for a second, honey. Remember last time? How we got so hot and everything and you said it made you sick 'cause I wouldn't let you go ahead?'

'It's not fair, baby. I mean I'm so hot I'm gonna ex-plode.' He breathed the flame out on her like a young dragon. 'Please let me love you.'

'Don't you know I want you to?'

'You don't act like it.'

'I love you and I want you bad, believe me.'

'Show me, then,' he said, fingers moving again.

'Honey, listen. I can't take a chance of something, you know, going wrong.'

'I won't let anything go wrong. I'll take care of it.'

'I've got to be careful. Not yet, PLEASE. Just be patient a little longer. Greg, sweet, I want you too.' She kissed him tenderly and he didn't respond. 'After what Mom did to us, to Dad, her going off like that . . . God. If something would happen. It would totally bum Dad out for good. I can't take any chances. Just be patient.'

'I don't know if I can,' he said, darkly, with just the right degree of urgency. And the next morning they skipped classes and Tiff had him take her all the way downtown to the Free Clinic so she could get some birth control pills. It was the beginning of bad times.

She would be a long time forgetting that day. She could feel her face burning every time she thought about it for weeks afterward. She'd gone out of the house like she always did, heading for school. And Greg picked her up in Roger's wheels and they took off for downtown.

'Wow. It's truly gnarly.' The Free Clinic was right out of Dickens and in a rough neighborhood. 'You want me to go in with you?' She could tell by his tone he wasn't about to.

'No. Just wait for me, okay?'


They kissed and she plunged ahead. You had to answer all these questions and this woman was going on and on telling her about everything and she sat there with a slowly building feeling of dread and apprehension creeping up on her, hearing the lady talk to her with half an ear —

'... and this is called an IUD, which means . . . ' — and wishing it would all end. And wondering what it would be like between them. The dark cloud of her mother's guilt hovering over her all the while.

'... and this is a diaphragm . . . ' And be sure to chew each bite 32 times, and look both ways before crossing the street.

And then it was over and she had The Pills and Tiff was excited and scared and very much fourteen years old as she hurried out of the Free Clinic and ohmigod, OH, NO, DAD!

Greg was nowhere in sight. Her dad, looking about ten feet tall, about to boil over with anger, was waiting for her.

'What are you doing here —'

And he cut her off with a thumb jerked at the car, meaning get your butt in here now. 'Get in,' he snarled.

'Where's Greg? What are YOU doin' here?'


'Dad.' Nothing. The car starts and he whips away from the curb and into the downtown traffic. 'Dad? What's this all about?'

'That's really choice, Tiff. Shouldn't I be asking you?'

'Did you follow me. Dad? I mean, man, that's about the lowest —'

'No, dear. I didn't have to follow you. I knew exactly where you were going this morning.'

'Did Amber —'

'Never mind how I found out. I could have picked up the phone and started to call out and heard you say birth-control pills and overheard by mistake, couldn't I? I could have seen you were acting suspicious as hell the last couple of days and I might have caught you in a couple of lies and I might have found out you were seeing this punk Greg when you were supposed to be at your friend's house — I mean, there's a hundred ways I could have found out. When you lie all the time you can expect to get caught. No?'

'Greg's not a punk. Don't call him that.'

'Oh. I think he's a punk, all right. I think that is precisely, exactly, and absolutely what he is. A snot-nosed, lying, sneaking, no-good little punk who is about to get his butt in some serious trouble for molesting a fourteen- year-old girl. AM I MAKING MYSELF CLEAR?'

'You don't have to scream. I'm sitting right here next to you, Dad.'

'You little lying whore!' And before he could control himself he lashed out at her, backhanding her and hearing her head crack against the window on the passenger side, hitting her a lot harder than he meant to, slapping her involuntarily, lashing out at her before he could think to stop himself, slapping his errant daughter, slapping Pat, slapping her lover Buddy, slapping the stewardess who had touched him on the plane, letting all his anger and rage and frustration whip out at his little girl.

'I HATE YOU,' she screamed at him between sobs. It was a slap he could never take back. Not the smack with the back of his hand or the tooth-rattling headache. That was nothing. It was what he called her. No matter how much she would ever want to, she knew that would be the one thing she'd find the hardest to forgive.

'Do you know the kind of thoughts I had about you on the way down here? The things I thought about while I was parked over across from the clinic waiting for your to get your little slut pills so you could give yourself to that — that boy? It was like realizing for the first time that I'd never known you. You were a total stranger living under our roof. My roof,' he corrected. 'And now I'm going to have to treat you as if you were a stranger. I'm going to have to make rules. Firm rules.'

'I hate you, you know that,' she spat, glaring at him with her narrowed cat's eyes, still sobbing and out of control.

'And I love you, and that's why —'

'No you don't,' she sobbed ruefully, 'you lying old bastard,' and the word bastard was the last word she spoke to him for a long, long time.

He went ahead to lay down his new, iron-clad rules, so ridiculous they made his previous constraints seem positively reasonable by comparison. The rigidity he'd shown toward Tiff since Pat ran off to be with her real lover man would appear benign when compared to the stern measures he was going to take to 'control' his wayward, delinquent fourteen-year-old.

Spain continued talking, commanding, when he should have been listening, asking. Instead of understanding or gentle guidance, he was making demands she knew she couldn't swallow. He'd taken a loving daughter and used

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