Chapter 6: Pretty Fly

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Jesse wasn't above having fun teasing an eighth grader, but it was a relief when Stacey's mom finally picked her up. Caleb was done outside and it was growing dark. They fetched the guitars to play in the living room, out of respect for Rosa's ridiculous aversion to guests in Wynter's bedroom. Wynter sat on the floor, leaning against the couch with her legs stretched out. She'd brought something else down from her room in a plastic bag, and handed it to Caleb.

"I didn't have gift wrap, but it's a very late birthday gift."

Caleb opened the bag and extracted a multicolored box made of Lego.

"I made it from Rosa's Lego. It's supposed to be the jamroom," she explained.

Caleb turned the object around in his hands and took great pains to look pleased. "That's great, hun. I'll use it to display those minifigures Jesse made." He handed it to Jesse to admire, not that there was much to admire.

"Yes, that's what I thought," Wynter said. "But I've just now realised you won't see the people once you've put them inside." She twisted her mouth in apology. "It's my first attempt."

Jesse jumped to the rescue. "Easy fix. We'll move the doorway into this wall here, and then this wall becomes the floor, with an opening at the front. Good job, Wyn." He winced, feeling like he was praising a three-year-old.

"Would Rosa be okay with you giving this to me?" Caleb said.

"Yes. She said I could."

"What did she think of it?" Jesse asked her.

"She thought it was—" Wynter cut herself off and drew a deep breath. "Um, she thought it was a room at the ashram. A room with no windows. She wanted to talk about it."

"Were there rooms with no windows at the ashram?" Jesse asked.

Wynter ignored the question like she always did. "Let's play."

They jammed for an hour, with Jesse slapping his thighs and the leather couch for a beat, grateful he hadn't brought a third guitar because he wouldn't have been able to keep up. He'd never had the patience to persist with such an illogical instrument. He found a pencil and a ruler to rap a beat on Rosa's coffee table, and then moved a couple of large vases from the fireplace into position, along with an exotic wooden chest, and soon he had an entire drum kit going. He kept waiting for Caleb to tell him to put the stuff back.

Rosa came in and the music stumbled to a halt.

"Jesse, would you mind putting my things away? That copper vase is particularly valuable."

Jesse got up to move everything back. The copper vase was the least likely thing to get damaged in his makeshift drum kit, but whatever.

"Caleb, thank you so much for fixing that gutter."

"Any time. You let me know if you need anything else done." Wow, his brother was trying real hard to please the shrink.

Rosa said, "Now Stacey's gone and I have you all together in the same room, can we have a little talk?"

Uh-oh.

Caleb went from relaxed to wary in a split second. He put his guitar down and became politely attentive. Jesse returned the wooden chest to the table under the window, careful not to knock it on anything. He sat on the couch. Wynter stayed where she was, at his feet, holding on to the guitar like a shield.

"I'm not going to rehash what happened the other week," Rosa said, addressing Caleb. "I've talked to Wynter at length about the dangers of online chatting and so on. I've accepted her apology for using my credit card. However, on a related note, she may have told you I found it necessary to look through her phone history a few weeks ago."

Caleb said, "She didn't tell me, no."

"She told me," Jesse said with a hint of belligerence, "so I showed her how to put a password on her phone."

"And that's what I'd like to talk about," Rosa said. "Wynter, you're doing so well at school, and you have a lovely friend, and everything's going well. But you have to remember that all these new experiences can be overwhelming. I think we all need to be aware that you may not understand what is and is not appropriate when it comes to the way other people use phones to share information. We've all learned a lesson after that terrible episode in Eugene. If I'd been monitoring your phone during that time, I would've realized what was happening and it could all have been avoided. A great deal of damage can be done in the way teens use social media. There's cyberbullying, to start with. There's sexting and inappropriate selfies."

"You looked through three weeks' worth of my texts and found nothing," Wynter said.

"I didn't find nothing. I found some very inappropriate material—some websites in your bookmarks, for example."

"What websites?" Caleb said, keeping his tone neutral.

"One in particular—a sex education site that I felt wasn't age-appropriate."

"I gave her that." Jesse already had his phone out, calling up the site. "It was written by psychologists and teachers, specifically for teenagers." He handed his phone to Caleb.

"Some of the information was fine," Rosa said. "But half of it was completely unnecessary at Wynter's age. You should not have sent her something like that."

"I'm not seeing anything here that Jesse didn't know at fourteen," Caleb said, scrolling through.

"I hope you're not serious. Why does a fourteen-year-old need to know nine positions for sexual intercourse?"

"Well, damn," Jesse said, "I gotta study that site again cuz I've been doing the same eight positions over and over, thinking I was pretty fly with the ladies."

"Cut it out." Caleb's tone was hard, although Jesse sensed it was mostly directed at Rosa. "Rosa, I think you're overreacting. I'd rather she had factually correct information than some nonsense about purity rings and sticky tape."

"I'm simply saying we should be careful, and conservative, given Wynter's history and... naivety."

"Unless this website is misinforming her, I don't see the problem."

"It's not only the website. I have concerns about her interactions with Indio. He's been sending her adult-oriented cartoons."

Jesse couldn't believe his ears. "You mean Dimiti Dime?"

"Isn't that something he made up as a kid?" Caleb asked him.

"I didn't find the humor in those cartoons childish," Rosa said.

Jesse's irritation rose in defense of his brother. "Okay, Dimiti does sometimes have something pithy to say about politics or masturbation, but it's nothing she wouldn't see watching The Simpsons."

"He never sent me anything like... that," Wynter muttered. Jesse couldn't see her face but he sensed she was very uncomfortable—and no wonder, with everyone talking like she wasn't there.

"I'm pretty sure Indio knows how to be selective in what he sends," Caleb said.

"I wish I shared your faith in him." As Rosa spoke, Jesse felt another uh-oh moment coming on, recalling the trigger-happy groupie with the pink hair and the forgettable name. "Unfortunately, that's not the case."

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