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The burning yellow sun was low in the sky as I drove along Sixth Avenue. Helen was in the passenger seat, hands in her lap, back and neck straight, letting her silence and her rigid body language communicate her dissatisfaction. She hadn’t wanted to come on this visit to Diane’s house. I understood her reasons, but at the same time I felt a slight resentment toward her; Diane was our only daughter, and we had to make the best of the situation.
Not that it was so difficult for me. I adored Michelle. She was sweet and funny in her own kooky way, and I’d grown to feel the same way about her as I felt about Diane. Well, almost the same way; there were some significant differences. Those differences were at least part of what bothered Helen so much.
Michelle had come into our lives two years ago. She and Diane had met at school and become friends, and then close friends. It seemed like every time I came home I found the two of them together, usually in Diane’s room, sitting on the bed and talking while music blared, or sitting on the sofa in the living room and watching television. Occasionally, I found them in the kitchen, drinking coffee at the table. Michelle was a very quiet girl, somewhat plain, and overly shy. She never said anything to me other than “hi,” and even that was only in response to my own greeting. She always seemed to be drawn in upon herself; hunched over, knees together, arms crossed in front of her chest, head bowed slightly, like she didn’t want to be seen. Her hair was dark, a brownish black, and there were times when it appeared she wasn’t taking care of it. I never saw her with makeup, either, or dressed in anything other than worn jeans and teeshirts. She was a complete contrast to Diane, who was brilliantly blonde, beautiful, charming and talkative, and always dressed well. They were so different from each other that I wondered how they could have ever become friends.
Helen had accepted Michelle in the beginning. She invited her over for dinner several times during the first few months, fed her breakfast along with the rest of us when Michelle stayed overnight, and never complained. Even after Michelle had gotten into all that trouble: smashing a window at school and getting sent away by her parents to her aunt’s house in Utah; running away from her aunt’s house and landing in jail after punching a police officer; the problems she had with the foster family she’d been assigned to; her severe mental problems, which included schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Even after all that, Helen had welcomed her into our home when I called in some markers and secured permission to adopt her. The only really negative thing she’d said was that it seemed silly to adopt a girl who was only two months away from her eighteenth birthday. And on the surface it didn’t make a great deal of sense, but the adoption angle was the only way I’d been able to manage getting Michelle to our house. And Diane had wanted her there so badly. She’d begged and pleaded with us, kept saying we had to rescue her, we were her only hope. Neither Helen or I even thought to look beyond our daughter’s passionate altruism. Diane wasn’t the kind of person who harbored ulterior motives.
It wasn’t too long after we brought Michelle to our home that my feelings for her began to change. To grow. It was only natural, really, since I now saw her every single day, and she was there for more than just a few hours at a time. I had the opportunity to spend time with her, to talk to her and get to know who she was, what she liked and disliked, what she’d experienced in her life, how she dealt with things. She’d warmed up to me after a while, even took to calling me “New Dad,” apparently because I had replaced her old one. That by itself was enough to cause my regard for her to develop into affection, even love, and I started referring to her as our “second daughter.”
And I did feel that way about her. Michelle had quickly become like a daughter to me, and we very easily learned to interact with each other that way. But she wasn’t my daughter, not in the strictest sense. I could forget that at times, but there were other times when I simply couldn’t. When it would have been better if I could.
She didn’t do anything to foster any kind of sexual attraction from me. In fact, she was unusually modest, even for a teenage girl, and as much as our relationship was growing, she was always careful to keep even the familial embraces we sometimes shared on an appropriate level. It was me, I was the one who was letting my feelings for her become the kind of feelings a father should never indulge with his daughter. I never touched her in any unacceptable way, never approached her, never even looked at her wrong. The problem remained solely in my thoughts and fantasies. I could control these to such a degree that neither Michelle or Diane ever suspected how I felt.
Helen, however, could tell. My wife for twenty two years, how could she not tell? She mentioned it one night after almanbahis adresi making love, a cautious question that revealed more of her fear than she wanted to reveal. I confessed, naturally; I’d never believed in keeping secrets from her, even potentially dangerous ones like this. Helen was justifiably hurt, and confused, and I did my best to reassure her that my attraction to our newly adopted daughter was just an attraction, a feeling, nothing I had even the slightest inclination to act on. It took some talking, but eventually I managed to convince her that she had nothing to worry about.
Helen did trust me, but I soon came to understand that it wasn’t her trust in me that was the issue; it was her trust in Michelle. Inexplicably (from my point of view), she saw Michelle as a threat to our marriage, and began to behave accordingly. She withdrew herself, emotionally and physically, and not just from Michelle, but from Diane and I as well. She participated less and less in the conversations at the dinner table, in the family evenings, in our life in the house in general. She became moody and short tempered, and refused to tolerate or try to understand the quirkier aspects of Michelle’s personality. As a natural result, tensions in the house grew steadily worse, making even the Christmas holidays a time of disarrangement and turmoil.
The break finally came in January, four months after Michelle had moved in and become such an integral part of our family. I had gone to work that morning as usual, but shortly after arriving I realized I’d left some important papers at home. I went back home to get them, and when I passed Michelle’s closed bedroom door I heard noises coming from her room that didn’t sound right. It sounded like crying, or moaning, and my first thought was that she was either hurt or having a problem with her illness. Without thinking, I opened her door and looked in, and found Michelle and Diane together in bed. They were both naked, Michelle was on her back with her legs spread wide, and Diane was clearly performing oral sex on her.
I only saw them for a moment before both girls realized I was there and, startled, practically jumped away from each other. My eyes immediately met Diane’s, and I saw fear there, an unusual thing to see in my daughter’s eyes. In the next instant I caught Michelle’s gaze too; she looked more sad than surprised. And then I backed out of the room, my last glimpse of anything being Michelle’s wide open legs and the small dark patch of hair between them; she either hadn’t thought to close her legs, or hadn’t bothered.
I went into my bedroom and searched for the paperwork I’d left behind, and as I did so I heard Michelle in the bathroom, throwing up. When I came back out into the hallway she was standing there, nude except for a pair of panties, and she looked at me with an oddly submissive expression on her face, as if she was presenting herself to me. For a moment my desire leaped sharply inside of me, then I told her to put some clothes on, and left the house.
I told Helen everything; finding them in bed together, what they were doing, Michelle’s unexplainable behavior in the hallway. All of it. I didn’t expect her to take it well, and she didn’t; she ranted and raved, waved her arms, and threatened to throw both of them out of the house. I tried to talk to her, to convince her that we needed to try to understand them, to accept them. At the very least we couldn’t just throw them out, especially our own daughter. Helen’s rage wouldn’t be soothed. A confrontation took place, a miserable evening of yelling and accusations, in which I attempted to be the peacemaker and Michelle, after an initial and spirited defense of Diane, simply wandered away and stayed out of it.
The argument accomplished nothing, and another week of tension went by before Helen and I finally worked something out. We agreed that Diane and Michelle would move out on their own, into a house or apartment, whichever they chose, and we would finance the move as well as provide the girls with an allowance that would meet their living expenses. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was the best I could do. We chose a time when all of us seemed to be calm and we talked it over with the girls.
Of course, both of them surprised me. Diane seemed calm and accepting, eager, in fact, to take us up on our offer. Michelle was the one who got angry, and explosively so. I’d never seen her get mad before, not at all, and here she was, this skinny little girl with dark stringy hair that made her look like a runaway, no more than a hundred pounds of her, squaring off with us and pointing her finger and accusing us of betraying her. It was a bit unnerving, but at the same time I felt I couldn’t have been more proud of her. Diane got her calmed down, however, almost like a mother soothing a child, then matter of factly discussed with us the terms and conditions of their move.
The girls left at the end of January. They found almanbahis adresi a small three bedroom house to rent clear across town, and we spent one whole Saturday helping them to move their things and get them settled. That was five months ago, and between then and now Helen and I hadn’t even visited them once. Diane came over on Sundays, but without Michelle, so at least I got to see my oldest daughter on a regular basis. My youngest I could only see when Diane brought her along on her few surreptitious visits to my office. I missed her, but I told myself it was just as well, since Michelle’s absence not only made my heart grow fonder, but it seemed to intensify my more unfatherly feelings for her.
That wasn’t the main reason I felt so apprehensive now, as I guided the car around a corner, turning from Sixth Avenue onto Tacoma Avenue, but it was certainly a major one. I had to get along with my wife as well as my daughters, which meant that I would have to hold nearly everything inside and not let it show.
I made an illegal U turn and pulled up to the curb in front of Diane’s house. As I stopped and put the car in park Helen said, “I don’t want to stay all evening, Martin. Just dinner, and then maybe another hour.”
“That’s fine,” I said, although I was planning to stretch it out as long as I could. Our family needed time.
“And try not get too friendly with Michelle. You know how I feel about that, and I’m sure our lesbian daughter isn’t too happy about it, either.”
I suppressed a sharp reply; I didn’t want us to start arguing before we even got out of the car.
The front door opened as we were coming up the walkway and Diane came out onto the porch. I was, as always, delighted and somewhat surprised when I saw my daughter; she was without a doubt the most beautiful woman I’d ever encountered. The pleasant welcoming smile on her face just made her that much more lovely to me, and I returned her smile as Helen and I approached.
“Hi, Daddy,” she called. “Hi, Mom.”
“Hello, Pumpkin,” I said, using the pet name I’d given her when she was six and we’d taken her out for her first Halloween.
When we were close enough we embraced each other. I kissed her cheek and selfishly held her tight, enjoying the sensation of my daughter in my arms. I buried my nose in her bright blonde hair, took in the scent of her perfume, and didn’t feel even the slightest guilt. My wife might be justified in opposing my desire for Michelle, but she had nothing to say about a man in love with his daughter.
I let her go and she and Helen gave each other perfunctory pecks on the cheek. As we went into the house Diane told us, “Michelle has a surprise for you.”
Helen’s birthday was coming up in another ten days and I assumed that Diane meant that Michelle had a present for her, but as we came into the living room I realized that, if it was really for either of us, Michelle’s surprise was for me.
She was standing between the sofa and the coffee table, her hands clasped together in front of her and a large expectant smile on her face. She looked just like she usually did, in her typically drab jeans and teeshirt (both black today), her tiny breasts obviously braless, her pale face absent of makeup except for some blood red lipstick. The only exception was her hair, but it was a dramatic exception: she’d dyed it blonde.
Her formerly dark and more often than not unkempt hair was now finely brushed, glossy and bright, the same sunlight color as Diane’s hair. She’d parted it on her left instead of in the middle the way she always had it before, and the change was startling. She looked completely different. It was like looking at someone I’d never met before. Someone unexpectedly beautiful. I was so impressed I couldn’t think of a thing to say.
“Well, you sure look different,” Helen said. She turned to Diane. “Is there coffee?”
Diane’s face fell and she said, “Yes, Mom. I’ll get you some. Daddy, you want some coffee?”
“Yes, sweetheart, thank you,” I said. I was still looking at Michelle and she was still smiling and posing, hoping I’d give her a compliment. “You look absolutely stunning, Michelle.”
Her smile got even wider, revealing her slight overbite, and said, “Thanks, New Dad.” Her hand went up self consciously to her hair. “It was my idea, but Diane helped me with it.” She turned her gaze toward Diane, who’d gone into the kitchen. “She indispensable.”
“Well, it was an inspired idea,” I said. “You look a hundred times better.”
“That’s not saying much,” Michelle replied. “A hundred times zero is still zero.”
“Come on, now. You were very lovely before, it’s just that now you look a hundred times more lovely.”
Michelle rolled her eyes in disbelief, but I could tell by her smile that she was appreciating what I’d said. That was one of the many strange things about her; she seemed to crave adoration, and yet she almost always tried to discount almanbahis adresi any compliments she received.
“Easy there, Romeo,” Helen said into my ear; she’d sneaked up behind me.
I turned and gave her a frown, and was about to say something, but suddenly Diane came out of the kitchen with a tray loaded with steaming cups of coffee.
“Coffee for everybody,” she announced. As she carried the tray over to the dining table she said, “Shell, how long till dinner?”
“Oh, um….about ten minutes….or so…..I think.” She moved off toward the kitchen.
That was another odd thing, about both of my daughters: Diane, who was clearly the more feminine one of the two, hated to cook and only went into the kitchen when she had to; Michelle was the cook in their little family, as well as the housekeeper. The wife, more or less. I didn’t really deconstruct their relationship in that way, but Helen did. Once, she told me, “I always thought our daughter would grow up and get a husband, not be one.” It had to be killing her, watching Diane and Michelle in their domesticity.
I, on the other hand, found it extremely charming. As Diane and Helen sat across from each other at the dining room table and worked to make civilized small talk, I watched with pleasure as Michelle popped in and out, bringing in the plates, the silverware, the drinking glasses, the napkins. Her subdued personality, always seeming out of place in other settings, felt just right in this one. She was the quiet, dutiful servant to my kind and generous daughter, and that more than anything else spoke loudly about how much Michelle truly loved Diane.
Dinner turned out to be spaghetti and meatballs, with a side of broccoli, and garlic bread. Michelle served each of us large portions, except for Diane, who insisted on a tiny amount of spaghetti, an only slightly larger amount of broccoli, and one slice of garlic bread.
“I’m on my never ending diet,” she explained sheepishly.
Yet another contrast between my daughter and her unusual lover: Diane had to watch her weight and exercise regularly to maintain her fabulous figure, while Michelle, apparently, could eat anything and everything and not gain an ounce. The poor thing only weighed a hundred pounds, and would probably never see a hundred and five.
The meal went smoothly enough, with Diane and Helen carrying on their truce, and Michelle and I making our own sporadic contributions to the conversation. I tried to stay focused, to pay equal attention to all three of the women in my life, but ultimately my gaze kept drifting back to Michelle. I couldn’t help it; she just looked so different. And so beautiful. That shining blonde hair, those sad and deeply set eyes. Her breasts too, small and perky as a twelve year old’s, her nipples poking through the thin fabric of her teeshirt. She was mesmerizing. She noticed me looking more than once, but she didn’t seem to mind, and even smiled at me a few times. I couldn’t tell if she was showing her appreciation for a father’s loving gaze or if she realized I was ogling her.
By the time dinner was over, relations between Diane and Helen had apparently thawed enough that Helen agreed to go with Diane into her studio to look at her most recent photography. That left Michelle and I alone, and I offered to help her with the dishes.
“Oh, you don’t have to, New Dad,” Michelle told me as she stacked plates on the table. “I can do it by myself.”
“I insist,” I said.
Michelle rolled her eyes again (it was one of her favorite responses) and said, “Okay, you do everything you need to do.” She handed me the plates and I carried them into the kitchen. Michelle was right behind me with the rest of the dishes, and for the next ten or fifteen minutes we stood side by side at the sink, talking as she washed and I dried.
Michelle wasn’t exactly skilled at small talk; she tended to veer off the subject, onto new and completely unrelated topics, or to make a remark that had nothing to do with anything. I knew there was some logic in it, for her at least, but like everyone else in her life, I’d stopped trying to connect the pieces. I didn’t mind, although I suspected that I sounded to her just as indulgent and condescending as everyone else. She wanted to be taken seriously, and it was frustrating for her when she saw that that wasn’t happening. It was one of the reasons, I knew, that she had chosen Diane; in the eight months since I’d first met Michelle, I had never once heard Diane talk down to her.
As we worked and talked I kept thinking to myself that this was the same old Michelle, the sweet kooky girl I’d come to love as if she was my own daughter, but at the same time, I was badgered by the sense that she wasn’t the same. She was new, different, eminently more attractive and interesting than before. Because of that marvelous blonde hair. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it, and eventually Michelle noticed. We were down to just two glasses, which Michelle washed quickly and efficiently before handing them over to me, and as she gave me the final glass she said, “Pretty bitchin, huh?”
“Bitchin?” I said. “What’s bitchin?”
“My hair.” She touched it with her wet soapy fingers, then looked at her hand and said, “Oops.”
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