18: Opposites

Euphemia jumped as her coffee trembled and the framed pictures of their smiling family rattled. Looking up at the ceiling, she waited silently for someone to say something. She didn’t have long to wait; her husband’s anger reaching her beyond the second floor, it grated on her ears as she heard him yell.

“You lied to me, C.C.! Open this door immediately! Open it!”

Arthur mewed pathetically as he placed a paw on her leg. Glancing at him, Euphemia sighed before standing up. When they had left for the long weekend, she had suspected something like this would happen, but that didn’t mean she enjoyed these disciplinary fights her husband and daughter had. Smoothing her skirt, the peacemaker pushed her chair and headed for the stairs.

“What?” he snapped. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she guided him to face her. Taking his hand, she led him from the door.
“Can I speak to you please?”
“Later, Euphie.”
“No, now,” she said firmly. “I need to speak to you now.”

He pursed his lips but allowed her to pull him towards their bedroom. Closing the door behind them, she turned and faced him. Folding her hands in front of her, she studied her husband, who was sitting on their bed with his arms crossed and stormy eyes.

“Suzaku, we both knew that the moment C.C. said that she was seeing someone that something like this would happen.”
“She lied to me, Euphie. She promised me she wouldn’t have any boys over while we were gone, but-”
“She sleeps over at his apartment all the time.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Wringing her hands, she stiffly smiled at him. She had figured it out a while ago but hadn’t said anything because she had trusted that C.C. would make the right decisions – even parenting had its limits – but she and her husband clearly had very different opinions on the matter. She understood his protective nature – he was, after all, simply acting out of love, as misguided as it was – but it was time that he grew up some as a father and got with the times.

“Wha- since when?”
“That’s not what’s important.”
“How is that-”
“No, listen to me first, Suzaku.” Frowning, she placed her hands on her hips. “C.C. is going to college next year. Starting from next year, you can’t follow her around like this with a shotgun, so you might as well let her practice while we can still watch over her and help her. That way, she can avoid making any irreversible mistakes in college, when it won’t be as easy to help her.”
“Euphie, I understand where you’re coming from, but this isn’t about that. She explicitly promised me something, and she went back on her word. She has to learn that there are consequences to actions like that.”
“Well… She does, yes,” she agreed with reluctance. “But you’re approaching the matter all wrong.”
“How am I supposed to approach the matter then?”

Silence filled the room as both parents wondered over the quandary. That was the real question, wasn’t it? What was the proper way to teach her this meaningful lesson without accidentally teaching her something else? Like how to lie better.

“Oh, I know!”

“What’s wrong?”

He smoothed her hair as she muffled her groan into his chest. Sitting up, she blew out a huff of air and watched her bangs resettle before speaking.

“My parents have been acting as if everyday is opposite day. Everything I say, they act like I said the opposite, and it’s the most annoying thing in the world. It’s actual hell.”
“Because apparently I went back on my word about not having you over while they were gone.”

He was thoughtful as she heaved a sigh. “At least they didn’t ground me.”

“Yeah, that’d just be the greatest, wouldn’t it?”

Frowning, she was about to ask him what he meant by that, when she realized he was only kidding around. Crossing her arms, she pursed her lips.

“It’s not funny.”
“No, it’s not.”
“It’s definitely not the silliest, funniest punishment I’ve ever heard of.”

Standing up from the sofa, she announced a sudden appointment she had to go to, when he grabbed her wrist and pulled her back down. Wrapping his arms around her, he kissed her on the nose.

“I’m sorry, C.C.”
“You better be.”
“I really am.” Pouting, he tried his best to look penitent. “Please don’t go.”
“Well, I don’t really have a choice, do I?” Squirming, she tried to break free from his grip. “Jesus, when did you get so strong?”
“I’ve been putting in some time these days. Why? Do you like it?”
“Yeah, maybe you can open that jar of pickles by yourself now.”

And she laughed for the first time since her parents had come out of their room with their devious plan.


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