Femmes fatales

October 19,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Two weeks ago, while I was making dinner, the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, I found two neighborhood girls outside. They are close to L.'s age, and he knows them from the pool and from swim team.

"Hi!" I said. "What's up?"

"Can L. come over and play?"

My heart skipped a beat with happiness. The last time a kid rang the doorbell looking for L. he was five years old, and we lived in our old neighborhood. A boy who lived two houses down used to come over almost every afternoon and stay for hours, and things always went wrong. L. hated the spontaneity of it, and used to run and hide when the doorbell rang. I used to dread having to explain to the kid that L. didn't want to play. And I was friends with the mom, too. It was all very awkward. But that was a long time ago, and these were girls.

"Hang on and I'll get him," I said, and I rushed off to the office, where L. was having computer time. "Get up! Get your shoes on!" I prodded him to the front door. I all but pushed him outside where, in a slight daze, he followed M. and A. up the driveway and toward the cul de sac by A.'s house. Scott and I tried to peer after him through the shutters in the living room. What was he doing? When should we go and get him? Would he be okay?

Thirty minutes later L. walked back in through the front door, a little out of breath. He kicked his Crocs off and made a made a beeline for the office again.

"Wait!" I said, running after him. "What happened? Did you have fun?"

L. shrugged. "It was okay. They wanted to try out torture techniques on me."

"Torture?" I was disturbed. "What do you mean?"

"They tied me to the hammock and tried to feed me grass."

"Huh," Scott said.

Oh good, I thought. They like him.