Just between you and me, Heather is my balance and doesn’t even know it. She’s not only pretty and smart, she’s realistic. I face life with fear of what-if, and she appears to live it each day, sometimes by the hour. I admire that, but can’t find my comfort level with it. It’s not a judgment thing – it’s a fear of losing her in childish decisions where she gets hurt. I feel a responsibility. Saying that out loud sounds really silly, because in fact, I have no control.
She’s the fun person I can’t be – the friend that knows no limits to defend – the girl that says it like it is, whether anyone is offended or not – and one that can turn two hours of freedom into a memorable adventure. I sincerely don’t feel jealousy – I’m in awe of her as a total independent thinking person … or so she seems to be. Right now, I think Heather is being rebellious because she hides out a lot and doesn’t talk much. I see boys are obsessed with her, and she gets a lot of attention from them.
I’m sitting at the dresser brushing my hair, and catch a glimpse of Heather’s reflection in the mirror as she quietly walks into the bedroom.
Heather sits down on the side of the bed, “I’m sorry for yelling at you, Jane, but you don’t understand – he told me I am the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. It’s not like you to be jealous.”
“I’m not jealous of you, I’m scared for you. You’re a woman now even though you’re still a kid too. You don’t need to be kissing him like that. I’m not even ready to have sex, and you’re younger. How could it be in your best interest to get talked into doing it?”
Turning around to look directly into Heather’s eyes, I asked her, “What do you want for yourself, Heather?”
With tears running down her face, “I want to have some fun. I want to be like other girls and do what they do. They must like me, I need that.” I waited to really listen to what she was saying.
“My grades are not as good as yours, it’s boring. I don’t want to be in an office all day. I want a real job, a fun job.” Heather looked around the room, “I want more than this, and get away from a father that yells so much I feel like I’m walking on eggs to stay out of trouble with him. Have you noticed Mom is more fun when he’s not in the house?”
“Yes, I’ve noticed, but that’s not the issue here. Let me put it this way, Heather. We need to come to an agreement on some basic things. Do we agree that we can live only one life at the time?”
“I’m not sure what you’re saying, my life now is not my life like when I’m older, maybe 20.”
“I thought so. I need to share something with you. Are you listening?”
With full attention, Heather said, “Yes.”
“You have just one life on this earth. It starts when you are still in your mother’s womb, you get a name when you are born, and it ends when you die. That is one lifetime. Can we agree on that?”
“It usually takes about eighteen years for most people to become a mentally mature adult that can take care of themselves without help, Right?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Well, Heather, tell me something … if you lost your family today, could you take care of yourself with no help from anybody?”
“I could get a job.”
I ask her, “What could you do to earn enough money to rent an apartment and buy a car you would need to get around and go to work? For Christ’s sake, Heather, you can’t even drive yet! You have one life in this one body – now is part of that life. What you decide now will matter to you later.”
I’m asking again, “What would you do?”
“I could get married, and he would take care of me.”
I speak to her slowly, hoping the words sink in one thought at the time, “Fine, think about that for a while. Also, think about the questions he might have about what you let other people do with your body. Who would you marry, a boy that’s been busy kissing any girl that will let him? A real man will not marry a child. You’re anxious to have fun, without seeing you could give up your right to be kissed and touched by someone you chose as a mature woman. Have you thought of this before?”
“No.” Heather put her hands over her face in embarrassment.
Reaching to hold her hand, “I promise you Heather, you are popular because people naturally like you. You don’t have to do anything sexual to try to win their friendship. Just be yourself – you have real friends that care about you – but I’m telling you now, you can’t count on someone else to protect you – that’s your job.”