Play Button

Jen was at the porch, sitting on a hammock and slowly swinging back and forth as she watched the rainwater drops fall one by one from the roof. The sun was rising from behind the damp trees and faraway mountains, tinting the clouds orange as they dissipated. She heard the wooden floor creak inside the cabin. Sam came out in his pajamas, stretching his shoulders. He and Jen exchanged smiles.

"Happy birthday, Jenny."

"Thanks, dad."

Sam groaned as he sat on the bench next to the hammock. "Dammit!" He sprang back up again. "It's wet." He stared at the bench as if waiting for it to apologise. "Well, too late now." He sat down again.

Jen was staring absently at the wilderness.

Sam furrowed his brow. "What's up, Jenny?"

Jen kept staring. "It's a nice morning."

"Every morning is nice here. Granted, some are nicer than others. But yeah, this is one for the books."

Sam's words were once again met with silence.

"Are you okay, Jen?"

Jen raised her eyebrows at Sam. "Yeah."

"That didn't convince me. You're worried."

"I'm just thinking."

"About what?"

Jen just stared at him.

"Okay," said Sam. "They're your thoughts. Sorry."

"I'm not angry."

"Then what are you?"

Jen's gaze returned to the wilderness. "I'm fifteen, I guess."

Sam chuckled. "And is that bad?"

"I don't know. That's what I'm thinking about."

"Weighing the scales?"


"Well, let me help you. What's on one arm of the scale?"

"Finally having some decent sex, I hope."


She gave Sam a facetious grin. "Kidding, dad."

Sam nodded uncertainly. They stayed in silence for a few seconds.

"Have you had any sex?"


Jen punched his shoulder.

"Ow," went Sam.

"I get to beat up my dad now," said Jen, moving her hands up and down as if they were the arms of the scale. "I get a little bit smarter. Maybe taller. And prettier, I hope."

"If you get any prettier you'll have to crawl your way around with all the boys clinging to your feet."

Jen giggled. "You don't count, you're my dad!"

"So I'm not, what, qualified to judge your appearance?"

"Totally not."

"But I am qualified to judge other women's appearance?"

"Uh, I guess."

"Well then. Your mom was beautiful. And you inherited her looks." Sam theatrically turned his palms up. "Ergo..."

"Bah," went Jen. "I don't have boobs."

"Then I assume those are apples under your bra?"

Jen snorted and let out a reluctantly amused sigh.

"So what's on the other arm of the scale?" asked Sam.

Jen thought about it.

"I don't get to have so much fun anymore."

Sam didn't answer. Jen looked at him.

"Do you know what I mean?" she asked.

"Not really," said Sam. "I mean, I get it. But I didn't live it. My childhood wasn't very memorable. It just kinda was. Things only began to get interesting at about your age, for me. I didn't miss what came before it." Sam paused, momentarily lost in thought. "Do you think you'll miss it?"

"I totally will."

Jen was staring absently at the sunrise, so she missed the smile that lingered on her father’s face until she spoke again.

"Do you think it'll get interesting now?"

Sam shrugged. "Up to you. I'll be there at your side every step of the way, but it really is up to you."

She stared at the floor. "It's like someone hit the play button."

"What do you mean?"

"I've been sitting here for an hour. And I think it's the first time I've really felt the time pass," she paused, looked up at the sunlit, damp forest. "It doesn't feel like I’ve got forever anymore."

Sam didn't know how to respond to that. He tried to imagine what Jen's mom would have said. But she wouldn't have said anything. Anna would have simply sat next to her daughter on the hammock, put her arms around her and kept her company until the sun was up.

So that’s what Sam did. And then they went to get some breakfast.

The End

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