Chapter 4: Lauren

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"I'm home," Lauren sang as she walked through the front door. Despite it being the end of the week, she had a full load of books in her bag to study while her parents were out of town over the weekend. She lugged the books into the kitchen and thunked them on down on the counter.

"How was your day?" Mom asked from the kitchen table. She had a mug in her hands and was leaning on her elbows, staring intently at Lauren.

"Good," Lauren said as she pulled out her lunch containers. Stepping to the sink, she ran the water to rinse out the crumbs from her lunch. "I aced my book report on Emma. We got them back today and Mrs. Gretta wrote she was blown away by my insight."

The fact that Josh had helped her improve the report broadened her smile. She probably would have caught the errors he pointed out during revisions, but it had warmed her heart that he cared enough to help. Their discussion of Emma's transformation had also inspired Lauren to dig a little deeper in the story to strengthen her conclusion.

"That's wonderful," Mom said, but her tone didn't match her words.

Lauren glanced over as she put the containers in the drying rack next to the sink. "What's up?"

"Can we chat for a minute before your father gets home?"

"Sure." Lauren dried her hands on a dishtowel and joined her mother at the table.

Mom shifted around for a moment as she frowned into her mug. "It seems like yesterday I was changing your diapers."

The words signaled she was in for one of those talks. Her mother felt compelled to have them periodically. Her parents had always treated her like an adult, but being their only child meant dealing with their overprotective tendencies at times. They weren't as bad as Breezy's parents, thank God. Lauren took a deep breath and fixed a smile on her face.

"When you started dating Bruce, I worried he might pressure you to do things you weren't ready for."

Lauren felt the heat rise up her neck. Mom really sucked at sex talks. She pronounced the clinical terms for body parts like someone speaking a foreign language. When Lauren began menstruating, Mom had made an embarrassing mess of the whole thing by telling her father at dinner. Then she called her sister Julie to brag, like Lauren getting her first period was the same as a good report card.

The pleading look on her mother's face made Lauren deeply uncomfortable. The unasked question hung between them while Mom silently begged not to have to ask it out loud. Lauren took a breath to steel her resolve and let her mother off the hook.

"Bruce and I made love just after Christmas. Well, I made love. Bruce, not so much, considering he cheated on me the whole time we dated."

"Oh," Mom gasped.

"I told you I broke up with him, but I didn't see the point of sharing the details. My lack of judgment was embarrassing enough without adding that he managed to charm me out of my virginity."

Her mother's flush probably matched her own. "Were you... I mean did you..."

"Condoms and spermicide," Lauren answered, keeping her own discomfort from her tone.

"Perhaps we should look into something more... reliable." Her mother pursed her lips. "When your father and I get back I'll take you to see Doctor Inverness. I'm sure she can prescribe something that will work better."

"What do you use?" Lauren asked.

"I had my tubes tied after you were born," she said with a nervous smile. "I know this isn't a comfortable conversation for either of us, but I want to know you really can talk to me about anything."

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