Barbara's driving had improved considerably over the past few months and Roger found that he no longer needed to be vigilant all the time. He leaned his head back against the seat while observing her intense expression.
It was during times like this that he wished to see her giggling and playful five-year-old self again, rather than a secretive adolescent whom he could never understand.
They returned home in time for dinner and later on to his growing suspicion, she was once again a little too eager to take out the trash.
"Don't you think it's strange?" He said to Lesley while she focused on scrubbing a pot clean.
"What's strange?" She replied without looking up.
"That Barbara always has to be the one to do it. Only time a teenager is like that, they're trying to hide something."
"Oh, Roger..." Lesley sighed, placing the pot and her scourer aside. "You know that she's not like other kids. She's a good girl, unlike the ones who get high and listen to loud music all the time."
Roger wasn't convinced by his wife's optimism and voiced his disagreement.
"The thing is, kids are getting smarter. You never can tell what they do when you aren't around."
"Then what do you suggest? Attach some device to her like in those spy shows?"
"No, I..." Roger said in hesitation, unnerved by his wife's scathing tone.
"You worry too much. She's fine and there's nothing wrong with her."
Barbara rushed back in as soon as Lesley finished speaking. The teenager ran straight for the bathroom without a word and slammed the door shut behind her.
"You were saying?" Roger countered while unsure of what to make of such behavior.
"Oh, shut up. Cleanliness is a good thing."
Roger approached his daughter's room and knocked twice on the door before he heard her voice from within.
She opened the door a minute later and stared anxiously up at him in the same way Steve had done.
"What is it?"
"Barbara, I want to hear it from you. What's the deal between you and that boy?"
"You mean Steve?"
Barbara began to inch out into the hall. Roger stepped back to allow her some room.
"Dad, we've been friends ever since grade school. I thought you knew that."
"But you're seventeen now. Don't things change when you get older?"
"What? No..." Barbara said with a look of surprise and disbelief. "That's not true. It would be like...like dating my brother..."
"So, you don't feel anything when you're around him?"
"Well, sometimes. But I think it's just that I end up having fun whenever we're together..."
"Fun? What sort of fun?"
Barbara grew tense and her eyes shifted elsewhere.
"It might be hard to believe, but he's really interested in gardening..."
"Gardening?" Roger remarked while having the slightest inkling that his daughter was actually using some unusual euphemism.
"He's especially good when it comes to pot plants..."
"The oregano's his favorite..."
Roger was feeling rather confused by now. His daughter's description of Steve's pastime sounded innocent enough, but he couldn't shake away the suspicion that something else was going on.
"You expect me to believe a boy like that is a gardener?"
"Yes. How do you think he copes with life at home?"
Roger remembered how afraid Steve had been to return home to his mother and decided to accept Barbara's words for the time being, though not before making a special request.
"If he's really what you say he is, I'd appreciate it if you brought something back next time. That way, there'd be one less thing for your mother to buy."
"Of course. I'll remember that..."
"Great. Now, I think I've taken enough of your time and should be going. Have a good night..."
"You too, Dad."
Roger gave his daughter a smile to show that no love was lost, then made his way to the room where Lesley waited.
He found her sitting beneath the covers and reading the latest issue of Vogue.
"Are you up for anything tonight, honey?" He asked while climbing into bed to join her. "We're not old yet..."
Lesley put her magazine down and gave him a stern look.
"No, Roger. I've got a headache..."
"Is it so hard to believe? My time of the month is coming again soon..."
Roger turned to make eye contact with his wife.
"That's a good thing, honey. We could still make another baby, if you-"
Lesley retrieved her magazine and used it to smack him right in the face before slipping out of bed.
"Don't even think about it. You know I can't handle another..."
No further words were exchanged as she stormed out of the room. The sound of her descending the stairs filled Roger with a sense of failure and he realized that it would take a major change to reawaken the passion she used to feel for him.
"I need to start getting back into shape. And maybe grow a mustache..."
"That Steve's not too bad, you know..." Lesley spoke up as she added items to the shopping list. "I don't know why you're so distrustful of him."
Roger immediately lowered his glass of whiskey and tried to explain himself.
"I'm not distrustful, I'm cautious."
"Oh, really? Keep telling yourself that."
"What's the matter, Lesley? Are you saying it's wrong that I want to protect our girl?"
"That's not the impression I've gotten this week. You've been so focused on that boy, it's almost like you're jealous..."
Roger's attempt not to laugh nearly resulted in him choking.
"Jealous? Why would I be jealous? He's a seventeen-year-old whose father ran out on him..."
"And does it make him much different from you at that age? You're not trying to look out for Barbara, you're trying to live through him..."
Roger was speechless and had to take a few more gulps of his drink, before he found the courage to keep talking.
"Lesley, are you still attracted to me?" He asked earnestly with flushed cheeks.
"What kind of question is that?"
"Be honest. I know I'm not what I used to be and you were always out of my league..."
"Tell me the truth, please. I won't hold it against you."
"Well..." Lesley began hesitantly. "...no."
"I knew it."
"But that doesn't mean I still don't love you. I just think we shouldn't have to express it physically..."
"Then what do you want? A dead bedroom?"
Lesley realized the flaw in her proposal and lowered her head in guilt.
"I don't know what we can do, besides...besides..."
"See other people."
Roger couldn't believe his ears and had to grip the edge of the kitchen bench to steady himself.
"But what about our marriage? What about Barbara?!"
"She doesn't have to know. We'll keep it all outside this house..."
Unfortunately, no sooner had Lesley said those words, Barbara re-emerged from the bathroom with a look of horror on her face.
"Mom, Dad, no! That's disgraceful!"