Kathy silently slid her key into the lock. The door made a tired small squeaky noise as it slowly opened and she froze, her hand clenching the door handle. Letting out a breath of air she hadn’t even been aware of holding back, she walked into the lobby and closed the door behind her as quietly as possible.
The lobby was dark. The large room seemed strangely small shrouded in darkness. She walked over to the stairs and made sure not to step on the old creaky board on the first step. Halfway to the first landing she stopped when the lobby was suddenly showered in light.
”And where do you think you’re going, young lady?” Xander asked.
Kathy turned and looked down at him. He was leaning against the wall, his finger hovering just above the light switch.
”I was…” Kathy pointed at the front door.
”I’ll tell you were you weren’t,” Xander said and walked across the lobby to stand at the bottom of the stairs, ”You weren’t in your room. You haven’t been in your room all night. Despite the fact that we told you we didn’t want you going to that party.”
”I was just having fun,” she tried to defend herself.
”We said no,” Kathy turned and looked over at the door to the small office, Angel was standing there.
”I’m almost seventeen,” Kathy stomped her foot, ”All the other girls were there.”
”We said no because you’re only almost seventeen,” Xander slowly folded the small blue blanket he had been holding in his right hand.
”You could have gotten hurt,” Angel said and rubbed a hand across his forehead and sighed.
”Not everybody’s a homicidal maniac waiting to kill us!” Kathy yelled.
”We’re just worried,” Angel mumbled, ”We’ve been waiting up all night, Kath.”
Kathy looked down at the blue blanket Xander was holding and frowned.
“I’m not Connor!” she said coldly. Xander’s knuckles turned white as he tightened his hold on the baby blanket. The silence in the room was deafening.
“Daddy…” Kathy almost whispered.
“Go to your room,” Angel growled.
Kathy walked down the long hallway. The door to Liam’s room opened and Liam stepped out into the hallway.
“Hey,” he mumbled and squinted sleepily at her. His boxer shorts were wrinkled and he was wearing a washed-out green t-shirt. Liam yawned and scratched his stomach, “What’s going on?”
“I screwed up,” Kathy said and kept walking. She stopped in front of the door to her own room.
“You okay?” Liam said and rubbed his nose with a fist.
“No,” Kathy said, opened the door, walked in and closed the door quietly behind her. She just stood there, staring at the bed. A knock on the door startled her enough to make her jump.
“Kathy?” Jesse whispered through the closed door.
“Go away, Jesse,” Kathy sighed and slumped down on the bed, “Don’t anybody ever listen?” she asked when the door opened enough for Jesse to stick his head inside.
“Heard you yelling in the lobby,” Jesse said and opened the door a little more. His hair was sticking up at the back of his head, his Loony Tunes shorts twisted a little to the left, leaving his right hip uncovered.
“Yeah…” Kathy closed her eyes.
“Liam says you fucked up,” Jesse reported.
“Rumor travels fast in this house,” Kathy looked up at the ceiling.
“You…Hey!“ Jesse looked over his shoulder as Liam pushed him into Kathy’s room.
“Dad’s pissed,” Liam said and slapped Jesse across his bare back.
“Ow, man!” Jesse jumped out of the way and scowled at his older brother.
“Wimp,” Liam laughed, “So,” he picked up an old battered doll from the dresser next to the door, “What’d you do?”
“Went to a party,” Kathy sulked, “And put that back.”
“A party?” Jesse grinned, “Any hot girls there?”
“No one special,” Kathy mumbled.
“What about guys?” Jesse persisted, “Any hot guys?”
“Do you always think with your dick?” Liam asked as he gently put the doll back on the dresser. The doll’s old purple dress was a little dusty but he still took the time to arrange it artfully around the sitting doll.
“Like you don’t,” Jesse threw back.
“You guys better go back to bed,” Kathy finally said after the boys had stared at the walls for a few seconds.
“Yeah,” Liam agreed and started pushing Jesse out the door.
“What’re the odds of going to a party where there’re no hot chicks OR hot guys?” Jesse asked just as Liam closed the door behind them.
Kathy stood outside her parents’ bedroom. The lamp over the door flickered every now and then in an annoying rhythm that made the numbers on the door look as if they were moving around.
She lifted her hand and was about to knock when she heard a soft murmur. It was impossible to make out what was being said but the soothing tone was easy to recognize. Her fingers flexed when she heard a quiet sob and her hand fell to her side.
The soft soothing voice followed her all the way down to her own room.
Kathy sighed and stretched, dislodging the fingers running through her hair. She opened her eyes and looked up at her father.
“Hi,” Xander said, his eyes were a little red and Kathy looked away.
“Hi,” Kathy whispered and pushed herself up by the elbows.
“You know…” Xander started.
“Daddy, I’m sorry. I‘m really…” Kathy interrupted.
“I know,” Xander tugged on a lock of her hair, “I also know that you’re not Connor…cause I know exactly where he was last night.”
“Daddy,” Kathy sat up, the blanket pooling around her.
“I sat there all night and just stared at the front door,” Xander took her hand and let his calloused fingers trace the blue veins under her skin, “I was so worried.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that about Connor,” Kathy’s fingers closed around her father’s.
“See…” Xander licked his lips, ”The thing is…we both have a job to do,” he smiled, ”I have to keep you safe and make sure you have everything you need to become the best version of you that you can be,” Kathy nodded, ”And you…” Xander continued, ”have to make me obsolete. You have to grow up so that you don’t need me to take care of you. But the time hasn’t come for me to let go yet. You’re still just a kid.”
“I’m seventeen,” Kathy mumbled.
“And you want to be treated like an adult,” Xander nodded, “I know. I know you desperately want us to stop fussing. Stop getting in your way…But that’s our job. And I like to think that we do a damn good job, me and Angel,” Xander cupped Kathy’s face, “You are not Connor. You’re Kathy. And we love you for that. Even when you yell at us and sneak out at night.”
“So I’m not grounded?” Kathy asked hopefully.
“Ppffth,” Xander shook his head, “You are so grounded that you’ll be lucky if you ever see the sun again.”
“But I promised Jenny I’d come over tomorrow and help her choose an outfit for her date with Tom,” the teenage girl whined.
“Sorry, Honey,” Xander simply said as he got up from the bed and walked over to the door.
“She’ll stop hanging out with me. She’s one of the really popular girls! I thought you loved me?” Kathy pleaded.
“This,” Xander said and waved his hand back and forth between them, “Is called tough love. So suck it up, girl, or you’ll have to clean all the toilets in the hotel with your toothbrush.”
“That isn’t fair,” Kathy pouted.
Xander turned in the doorway and smiled at her, “It’s not a race, you know. Don’t rush. There’s no reason to grown up too fast. You’ll get a boring job and a mortgage soon enough,” he said as he closed the door.