“Honey, is that you?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “I just got home from the party. Are you awake? Can I talk to you?”
“Of course, sweetheart.” He patted the mattress. “Come sit. Did you have fun?”
She sat beside him in the moonlit room and took his hand.
“It was a nice party,” she said, holding her emotions in check, “but then they played a kissing game, and every girl in the room got kissed except me. Not one boy wanted to kiss me.” Her voice broke. “Oh, Daddy, what’s wrong with me?” Tears flooded her cheeks.
“Honey, nothing at all. It’s just too soon. The other girls have become women and it’s happening a little later for you.”
“I’m a woman. I have periods.”
Rodney’s eyes went wide. “When did that happen?”
“Just after we arrived.”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“There was no reason. I told Geri. She showed me how to use tampons. No big deal, except sometimes I feel a little cramp. So, I have breasts and a period and no one kissed me. What am I missing?”
“Not a thing.” Thank heavens for Geri. “Do you remember The Ugly Duckling from your Hans Christian Andersen tales when you were little?”
“I guess. What about it?”
“Well, do you remember how it ends? In a few months, your braces come off and we’ll get you contacts so you can dispense with glasses. I’ve already noticed that your waist is smaller and you’re developing a set of very curvaceous hips. You were overweight in a bathing suit when we arrived, but soon the word to describe you will be shapely.”
“Are you sure? It doesn’t feel like it?”
“You’re emerging from the awkward stage, and in a few months, I absolutely, without a doubt, guarantee you will become a swan; a graceful white swan who happens to be catnip to teenaged boys.”
“You’re not pulling my leg?”
“Is your father in the habit of pulling your leg?”
“No. It’s just so hard to believe.”
“Ever watch a caterpillar turn into a butterfly? That’s hard to believe. A little patience, darling, and you’ll be shooing the boys away with a stick. Trust good old dad.”
Liza’s tears stopped, but her eyes still glistened in the moonlight coming through the window.
“Thank you. I feel much better. Goodnight. I love you.” She bent forward and kissed her father.
“Goodnight sweetie. I love you, too.”
He lay awake in the darkness and considered the misunderstood duckling that turned into a swan. Both he and Liza were standing on cusps, undergoing metamorphosis. She would become a swan in natural progression; whereas he, in ignorance, had waddled like a duck for forty-four years until Kerry happened by and made him see who he was.
Better late than never. It feels really good to be a swan. It feels good to know who you are. Hell, I always was a swan; I just didn’t know it.
Swans slept well.