28. Deeper Bonding

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"You could marry him. That would make it fit."

Yes! Oh, God, yes. "Relationships are complex. We've talked about that. It's not only young people who have trouble figuring them out. Grown-ups are also confused about them."

"So, you don't want to marry him?"

"I didn't say that."

"So, you do want to, don't you?"

"Go to the loo, Sweetheart." Valerie attempted a straight face.

"That's yes, isn't it?" Chloe giggled. "Gotcha, didn't I?"

"It's just that I'm not saying no. Go to the loo. Call me when you're in bed."

Valerie joined Lorne on the couch, and after a kiss, they cuddled. The first thing out of Lorne's mouth was, "Chloe called me daddy, and I was surprised how it warmed me. Do you mind if she does?"

Oh, God! "Yeah, I noticed that as well, and we were just discussing it. She wanted to know if you would allow her that privilege."

"And what did you tell her?"

"That you might not like it."

"I do like it. A lot. What do you think?"

"I love it. I love the easy way you interact. The way she adores you."

"Does she?"

"What?"

"Adore me?"

"We both do." Yeah, we do.

"I like that."

"I love it." She nuzzled her face into his neck. "Keep in mind that Chloe has never had any father figure. Nor any close male. No brothers, no uncles, no grandfathers, no friends of mine until you."

"Your mother's family? Her father, brothers, uncles, cousins?"

"She fled an abusive family when she was sixteen." Valerie blew out a deep breath. "Never looked back. Refused to tell me who they were."

"So, you had no male influence in your upbringing."

"None, and I don't want Chloe to continue being deprived of it."

"So, am I a father figure for her? Or a lover for you?"

"A lover first and foremost. But with benefits. I'd love her to respect you as a father. She's at a delicate point in her maturation. Now into her puberty, and she needs the enfolding acceptance."

"Puberty already? That's early, isn't it?"

"Well within the normal range these days. Some begin their monthlies at nine, even eight."

"The reason for the early sex-ed."

"Oh, for sure." Valerie rose and retrieved her computer case. "I printed one of these for Penny, and I want you to see it as well. It shows the guidelines Grace and I have been following. Modern thinking from the most respected of authorities." She dug out a page and handed it to him.

Lorne took it and quickly read.

Early childhood: Two to five years old — Children should understand the very basics of reproduction: a man and a woman make a baby together, and the baby grows inside the woman's belly. Children should understand their body is their own. Teach them about privacy around body issues. They should know other people can touch them in some ways but not other ways.

Middle childhood: Five to eight years old — Children should have a basic understanding that some people are heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. They should also know what the role of sexuality is in relationships. Children should know about the basic social conventions of privacy, nudity, and respect for others in relationships. Children should be taught the basics about puberty towards the end of this age span, as a number of children will experience some pubertal development before age 10. Children's understanding of human reproduction should continue. This may include the role of sexual intercourse.

Tween years: Nine to twelve years old — In addition to reinforcing all the things above they have already learned, tweens should be taught about safer sex and contraception. Tweens should understand what makes a positive relationship and what makes for a bad one. Tweens should also learn to judge whether depictions of sex and sexuality in the media are true or false, realistic or not, and whether they are positive or negative.

"So, she's familiar with the mechanics, as you had called them?"

"Rather thoroughly, I think. She's likely augmented her awareness by internet browsing. The complication was your arrival in our lives, and the questions raised by her observations of our interactions. And her wild imagination. Her questions seem to come out of the blue; a child one moment, and an adult the next."

"I'd love the challenge of helping her through this."

Valerie moaned a quiet hum as she captured his lips with hers.

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