tipsyGnostalgic [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 7:06 pm
TG: lmao this nanny fukin suuuuuuuuuks mom
TG: wanna bet how logn it takes me to make her cry?
TG: u rly shoulg be testing them prooerly urself
TG: **should *props
 missed calls from Home at 7:45 pm
 new voicemail from Home at 7:52 pm
Ms Lalonde, I quit. That’s it, I just quit. I’ll stay the night, but you had better find someone to replace me by tomorrow because I can’t do this anymore. Your daughter is cruel and unmanageable and I will not be spoken to like this.
tipsyGnostalgic [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 8:30 pm
TG: lm fabulous a off she QUIT!!!
TG: r u supes proud of me?
TG: i psycho analysed the shit out of her
TG: rolal 1 ms doubtfire 0
TG: i fot no fukin idea waht her name is
 missed call from Home at 9:01 pm
 new voicemail from Home at 9:02 pm
I’m leaving. I can’t stay here any longer. I thought I should at least let you know. I’d feel worse if it wasn’t supremely clear that she is not a child. If she can say things like that she can look after herself for a couple of hours. Don’t bother paying me, I don’t want to see either of you ever again.
tipsyGnostalgic [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 9:40 pm
TG: mom u rlookin fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine tonight!!!
TG: makin morgo robbie look like a piece of shit sittin next to u
TG: who tf nos
timaeusTestified [TT] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 10:04 pm
TT: Hey, Ms Lalonde, it’s Dirk Strider.
TT: Dave’s son.
TT: Obviously, sorry, you know who I am.
TT: I’m heading round to your place, Rox just called and sounded like she needed help.
TT: Just letting you know that I have it covered and sorry to bother you.
turntechGodhead[TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 10:31 pm
TG: apparently our kids are having a sleepover so thats cute
TG: call me after the show?
TG: dirk sounds stressed and he ditched jeeves so
TG: god i hope your phones on silent
tipsyGnostalgic [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 11:11 pm
TG: mske a wisj mom!
TG: cos its 11:111
TG: ppppppffffft nope
TG: anyways gonna have sexxxxx with dork now hwered you keep the codnoms?
TG: lmao na thats fine ass is
 missed call from Dave Strider at 11:20 pm
turntechGodhead[TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 11:20pm
TG: when the fuck does your show end
TG: also im driving to the studio rn
TG: ill pick you up i got the plane waiting
TG: our fucking kids am i right?
Rose left the stage of the late night talk show feeling good. She’d promoted the new book well and she’d managed to make all her probing questions to the host funny and teasing instead of mean, which was sometimes a struggle. It hadn’t hurt that she had felt very pretty. She smiled to herself as she walked back to the dressing room to collect her things.
She was contemplating going home early as she turned her phone back on and did a sweep of the room to make sure she hadn’t left anything. Her phone played the usual jingle as it turned on and then continued to sing as missed messages piled up. Rose sighed. Dave had probably forgotten she was doing the interview and had sent her a million messages about something or other. Or he was live messaging her his reaction to the interview.
She flicked the screen on as she walked out of the dressing room, bag hooked over her elbow.
Five missed calls. And messages from multiple Pesterchum accounts. Rose’s brain ticked over to panic even before she read through the messages. After reading them, she had to stop in the middle of the hall and take deep breaths to calm down. She was so far away . Roxy needed her and she wasn’t there.
As she burst through the door of the studio, she saw Dave waiting, leaning on the car. A flash of cameras captured their hug and half-blinded Rose as she found her way into the passenger seat. She wasn’t exactly stalk-worthy on her own, but Dave was the particular combo of attractive, talented, rich and bugfuck crazy that meant that he was almost always followed by paparazzi.
‘I take it you got messages too?’ Dave asked.
‘Yes. Shut up for a minute, I have to listen to these voicemails.’
Dave fiddled with the radio on a low volume as Rose listened. He drove right on the speed limit, taking them smoothly through the city. Rose sighed and tossed her phone into her handbag. Nothing she couldn’t have deduced based off Roxy’s messages. Though she would absolutely be putting in a complaint. Not that she was quite sure she blamed the woman. It was still appalling that she had left a fourteen year old girl to fend for herself, probably under the influence.
‘Am I supposed to call her?’ Rose asked.
‘I already tried that, I think your phone’s off the hook and hers just rings out. Dirk answered, but he said he had it covered and refused to tell me what was going on. Jeeves didn’t even realise he’d left the house.’
‘Your nanny is called Equius, Dave, not Jeeves.’
‘Roxy said she was going to have sex with Dirk,’ Rose choked out. ‘She’s fourteen . She—’
‘Dirk is incredibly gay and he’d never take advantage of her,’ Dave interrupted.
‘You thought you were straight when you were fourteen,’ Rose spat. ‘No one is certain of their sexuality at that age, I don’t know if total certainty in sexuality is something that happens at any age! And even if she doesn’t pressure him into it, there is so much that could …’
Dave took his hand off the steering wheel to grab Rose’s.
‘We literally can’t get home faster than this. Dirk’s good, Rose. He’ll look after her.’
Rose laced their fingers together and pressed her lips to Dave’s hand.
‘I’m so fucking worried.’
tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering timaeusTestified [TT] at 12:40 am
TT: Thank you for your help, Dirk.
TT: Dave and I are on our way home, we should get in quite early in the morning.
TT: Oh, cool.
TT: Roxy’s in bed now. I’m gonna sleep in her room just in case she gets sick or something.
TT: Thank you.
tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] at 12:45 am
TT: I’m on my way home.
TT: We need to have a serious talk.
tipsyGnostalgic[TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 1:11 am
TG: omg mom i am soooo sorry
TG: i didnt mean to male u come home
TT: Sweetheart, you really worried me.
TT: I think you’re in a very vulnerable place and we need to talk about this.
TT: I know I’ve tried to raise you in a sex-positive environment and have encouraged you to feel free to ask questions, but it is still something that should be treated seriously.
TT: The emotional impact of that kind of physical and emotional vulnerability cannot be overstated.
TT: I wish I could say this in person, but I worry that you need to hear it now and this is the best I can do.
TG: omg mom no it was a joke
TG: im so sorry
TT: I still think we should have a talk about this.
TT: Get some sleep.
Rose had never been so livid in all her life. Dave was worried too, and put out and all the rest of it, but he wasn’t quite at her level of anger. Perhaps because his kid had been the sensible one, again (sneaking out aside). It was Roxy that was the problem. Again.
Rose didn’t think that Roxy was doing any of this (this covering a range of sins from stealing alcohol to being caught outside in the middle of the night by police , to having rather severe depression and anxiety) for attention. Rose had only been in Los Angeles to promote her latest book for the last four days, and before that she had been home for three months. Three months. With her entire focus on her daughter, because the time between approving the last edits and the publishing house processing the book was always the quietest time in Rose’s line of work.
At one point, after Roxy had thrown a truly superb temper tantrum, Rose had looked her in the eye and said, ‘you have my attention.’
‘Why would I be faking this,’ Roxy had said, maybe in response to that, maybe at another time. The whole fight had sort of blurred together. Had blurred with countless other pointless fights that never solved anything. ‘Why would anyone want to live like this?’
Okay, point taken, Roxy. But as nice as it was to be assured that her daughter wasn’t doing this on purpose (and that reassurance felt paper thin on days like today because what was this “joke” if not a cry for attention) the fact remained that Rose felt worse than useless.
Her daughter was suffering. Even if it was less than genuine, Roxy was still suffering for it. No healthy and happy child acted like this. And nothing Rose did seemed to help.
She had countless meetings with teachers and then ultimately changed her school entirely when Roxy said the girls there were bullying her. She had paid for and arranged psychologist and psychiatrist appointments for the last two and a half years. She had enforced a stricter routine, she’d abandoned the routine, she’d read dozens of books and spoken to so many people about what the right thing to do was. Most people seemed to think she would grow out of it. Rose privately worried about Roxy making it to whatever age would constitute growing out of it.
And she had believed the “joke”. She had believed Roxy capable of coercing Dirk into doing something that they were too young to understand and that it would emotionally cripple them even worse than she already was. That she would rape him, with complete obliviousness that it was rape. That she would expose herself physically and emotionally to him out of some kind of desperation to be grown up or to have tangible proof of his love or some other reason that hadn’t even occurred to Rose yet and then know that grief that too many women knew of saying yes, of insisting yes, when they couldn’t mean it.
Rose had struggled with separating her own wants and needs from what she felt her partner deserved a lot when she was younger. She had hoped that by talking openly with Roxy she might start that journey without the trauma. She was horrified that it had apparently just made Roxy more casual about it.
‘What are you typing there?’ Dave asked.
‘Emails,’ Rose replied shortly, not taking her eyes from her laptop.
‘You wanna talk about it?’
‘I want to send Ellen Degeneres a personal and kindly worded email to explain why I will not be able to appear on her show despite already committing to it.’
‘We can go together when you reschedule, if that helps. People like me.’
‘I know, dear,’ Rose said. She closed the laptop lid. ‘What the fuck am I supposed to do?’
Dave shrugged. He unbuckled his seatbelt and scooted across so he was sitting next to Rose instead of opposite her. Rose automatically put her head on his shoulder and he wrapped his arm around her.
‘I don’t know that there’s anything you can do. Like, talk to her, obviously. But she’s got to make the decision to stop being a shit person on her own, right?’
‘Not that she’s actually a shit person,’ Dave said.
‘No, she is,’ Rose said with a dry laugh. ‘I don’t mean that. Yes, I do. Fuck, I don’t even know.’ Rose groaned. ‘Do you remember when they were little and Dirk was the one who had no concept of sharing and was just always getting in trouble?’
‘Do you think she’s overcompensating? Like I told her how good and kind she was when she was little … because she was , she was so gentle and responsible, she looked after Jaspers all on her own when she was so tiny ... And now she’s rebelling against it like I rebelled against dresses and pink things when I didn’t want to be a little girl anymore?’
Dave shrugged and rubbed Rose’s arm a little.
‘Rose, I don’t know that there’s a reason . Like, remember when this first started and you thought she might have been abused or something?’
‘It was like a switch , like she turned thirteen and suddenly hated everything, especially herself.’
‘I know, Rose, I was there. And then you thought it was because you’re a single mom.’
‘That messes kids up sometimes!’
‘Yeah, but there’s nothing you can do about that, and you’re a good mom. And then you thought it was because we’re a bit famous.’
‘That definitely messes kids up.’
‘Dude, stop interrupting, I have a point, jeez.’
Dave waited to see if Rose was going to make some kind of snide comment, but she was too tired. Tired because it was two in the morning, tired because she’d been working all day, tired because it had been a year and a half of doing everything she could for Roxy with no discernable change and she’d been feeling so guilty about looking forward to a week off, a week across the country where she wouldn’t have to fight with her every second day and she’d been called home halfway through. She’d have walked out of the interview if she’d known and she’d do it a million times no matter how many times it was proven that it made no difference, but even though she would never allow Roxy to see less than “I am here for you”, it was hard not to feel the resentment she worked to bury.
‘My point is, maybe there’s no tragic but concrete reason and maybe there’s no magic solution and I know you hate not having control but this is just probably just something you’ll just have to deal with … oh fuck, are you crying?’
Rose wiped the tears from her cheeks and finally allowed herself to take a less than even breath. No use hiding it after she was discovered.
‘I feel like I did this somehow,’ she said. ‘Whether it was something in her childhood, or my stupid depressed genes or … I did this and there’s nothing I can do to fix it and I’m just … so tired. ’
Dave pulled his pocket square out and handed it to Rose. She dabbed at her makeup and then gave up and just wiped it away.
‘I have another somewhere,’ Dave muttered.
‘I have tissues in my handbag,’ Rose said.
‘Well fuck, why’d I give you a $2000 pocket square?’
‘Why do you own a $2000 pocket square?’
The mood lightened somewhat as they bantered about each other’s fashion choices and spending habits. Eventually Dave fell asleep on Rose’s lap and Rose was left to consider what on earth she was supposed to say to Roxy when they landed.
The first thing she was going to do was comb the house for alcohol and get rid of it all, again. Rose hated that her own tendency to drink when she was stressed (which was approximately every night for the last 16 years with a tidy gap around her pregnancy and maybe one or two nights off a week to convince herself that it wasn’t an addiction) enabled Roxy’s drinking. She had locked all the booze up after the last time, but apparently Roxy had gotten into it anyway. She made typos because she was a fast and careless typer, but not to the extent of last night.
Rose only realised that she had nodded off herself when the pilot gently placed her hand on her shoulder.
‘Good morning, Ms Lalonde, Mr Strider. We’re here.’
‘Thank you,’ Rose said, blinking quickly to clear her fuzzy vision.
Dave groaned and covered his face.
‘Wehmahshades?’ he asked through his fingers.
The pilot smiled in that way that people did when they thought Rose and Dave were being some kind of cute couple and walked away to do pilot things. Rose blamed her very short sleep on her inability to resist staring at the way the pilot’s jacket was tailored so very nicely. Not the time for it.
Rose shook herself and picked up the shades from the seat next to her and handed them to Dave. The brief second that his eyes were exposed showed deep shadows underneath them and a redness beyond his pupils.
‘You haven’t been sleeping enough,’ Rose said.
‘Nope,’ Dave agreed. He heaved himself up. ‘Fuck. I have a bed on this thing why the fuck did I sleep like that. My hips. My hips, Rose. As if I’m an old man. With hip pain. Rose, why did you let me sleep like that.’
Rose attempted to tune Dave out as she stretched her shoulders.
‘Rose. Rose. What time is it? Rose.’
‘It’s five in the morning, Dave, now shut up before I kill you in a pre-coffee rage.’
Dave stepped in front of Rose, squished her cheeks together and kissed her on the lips. Rose glared at him.
‘How’s my morning breath, Rose?’
‘I will give you my editor’s phone number if you are quiet for the next fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes, Dave, that’s all, and you can finally have my incredibly angry editor’s phone number.’
Dave let go of her face and mimed zipping his lips.
The closer they got to her home, the more stressed Rose got. They sat in silence, holding hands despite the obvious recognition in their driver’s eyes. Fuck the rumours.
Rose’s code didn’t work on her gates, so they were forced to leave the car and climb over the fence. Dave went first and pulled Rose up. She wouldn’t have accepted the help from anyone other than him and he smiled at her because he knew that.
‘I blame yours for this,’ Rose said.
Dave only grumbled in response, a sure sign he agreed. The boy in question was visible standing on top of the observatory.
‘Is he smoking? Does my kid smoke? I thought he was the good one?’ Dave said.
‘He only smokes when he is running on very little sleep,’ Rose said.
‘You knew ?’
‘I bought him the cigarettes. I gave him 20 at the start of the year and another 20 before I left for LA. That’s barely anything.’
‘Rose, he’s fourteen!’
‘They help with nausea and he wasn’t able to focus when his insomnia was playing up.’
Dave whisper-yelled at Rose the entire walk up the drive until she admitted that she was wrong to give a teenager an addicting carcinogen.
‘Jesus christ. This is like lesson one of parenting, Rose. Maybe we should swap for a bit. Dirk is so easy.’
How quick is too eager to agree to that , Rose wondered. She had a sneaking suspicion that Dirk wasn’t as easy as he tried to appear to Dave. He seemed worried that he was a burden on his celebrity father and clearly was doing some things Dave wasn’t aware of. Such as smoking and sneaking out.
By the time the two of them got into the entrance and Rose had put the coffee pot on, Dirk had made his way safely off the roof and into the kitchen.
‘I’m taking you to the doctor on Monday to find an alternative to cigarettes,’ Dave said immediately.
‘Hey, Bro, nice to see you too, how’s LA,’ Dirk said tonelessly.
‘Good morning, Dirk,’ Rose said.
‘Hey Ms Lalonde,’ Dirk said, his tone suddenly much more respectful. ‘I’m real sorry you had to come back. I thought she was doin’ okay. I would have come over sooner if I thought …’
Rose held her hand up, ignoring how Dirk had called her Ms Lalonde again, as if she hadn’t literally changed him as a baby. They hadn’t seen enough of each other in the last five years. It was a large reason as to why they’d both bought homes here six months ago, to be ten minutes apart instead of several hours by plane.
‘Not your responsibility. But thank you. Tea? Coffee?’
‘Coffee,’ Dirk said.
‘You’re fourteen ,’ Dave protested.
‘You drank coffee at fourteen,’ Rose said. She made coffee for all three of them and set the sugar bowl in the middle of the table. She was upgrading to two teaspoons in light of her sleepless night and stressful return, she thought she would give the option to them as well.
‘You’re gonna have a new dad, kid,’ Dave said after drinking half his cup.
‘Stiller finally say yes?’
‘You’re not still proposing to your lead actor,’ Rose said, dismayed.
‘His feelings would be hurt if I stopped now, Rose. And nah, Rose is giving me her hot editor’s number. I love him and I’m gonna seduce the crap out of him.’
‘I’m glad to hear you’re not getting too far ahead of yourself. Have you even met him before?’
‘Details,’ Dave said dismissively. ‘I saw him having coffee with Rose once. I’ve read his notes on her books. I honestly don’t know what else you expect me to do before I propose. Should I ask for his father’s permission? This isn’t 1834, Dirk, why are you acting like it’s 1834?’
Rose leaned against her kitchen bench and felt herself relax. She was home. She would talk to Roxy when she woke up, but nothing terrible had happened or was going to happen. Dave hopped onto the bench next to her and she leaned into him instead.
‘What’s his name?’
‘Something beginning with “kah”, Rose, what’s hot editor’s name?’
‘Karkat, and if you scare him so badly that he doesn’t edit for me anymore you will be supporting my lifestyle when my career ends. Complacency would be rubbish without him.’
‘That’ll help the rumours,’ Dirk said. ‘You’re sure I’m not yours, right?’
Rose smiled enigmatically. She was sure Dave was doing his own smirky version next to her.
All three of them looked towards the steps when they heard the sound of a door opening.
There was quiet for a moment and then the sound of retching.
‘Sounds like she made it to the bathroom,’ Rose sighed. She filled a glass with water and downed the rest of her coffee. ‘Help yourselves to food.’
By the time Rose got to the bathroom, Roxy was brushing her teeth sitting on the floor. She looked miserable.
‘I’m sorry, Mom,’ she said.
‘I know,’ Rose said.
The talking would come later. Right now, her needs were simple enough. They would watch a movie, the four of them on a couch with a bucket within Roxy’s reach, Rose would take advantage of the quiet moment to stroke Roxy’s hair and the boys would talk through the whole thing. And in a week there might be another crisis no matter what sensible things Rose said or how much Roxy swore she was listening, but they would deal with it then.
Rose would do anything for her little girl. The world was not kind enough to let her know the right path to take. She had a horrible feeling that it was endure and that it might be a very difficult and long process.