"Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-aaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!" Meredith called as she came through the front door of their New York City apartment balancing a large take-out pizza box in one hand and several bags in the other. She managed to get through the door successfully, dropped as many bags as she could manage without dropping the pizza, and headed for the kitchen.
"Leee-ahhh?" she called again, setting the pizza carefully down on the table, then putting the rest of her bags down.
"I'm on the phone!!!" Leah called from upstairs.
"I brought pizza!" Meredith called back, and within seconds Leah was downstairs with a plate in her hands.
"Hmm didn't take long huh?"
"Well...pizza!" Leah replied.
"Uh huh, that's what I thought." Mereidth joked. "How was your day?" she asked as they sat down at the table and ate.
"It was so bad! Larissa's boyfriend broke up with her for like....no reason."
"Oh...my. How long were they together?" Mereidth asked, humoring the importance her sister, like many young teenagers place on "dating."
"Almost two months" Leah said, as if it were several years.
"Wow. Poor Larissa! Well, I'm sure she can do better than a jerk like him"
The phone rang, inturrupting them. Leah immediately got up to answer it.
"Hey Leah!" Addie said into the phone.
"Hi!!" Leah responded, clearly thrilled to be talking to Addie. "How's it going?"
"Oh not bad, how about you?"
"Good! Except that Larissa's boyfriend broke up with her today."
"Ohhh no! That sucks! How's she doing?"
"She'll be okay I think."
"Well, that's good." Addie was a little bit better at playing along than Meredith was. "Is Meredith around? I really need to talk to her."
"Yep, just a second." Leah handed the phone to Meredith. "It's Addie."
"Thank's sweetie" Meredith said, taking the phone. Leah went back to the table to continue eating. "Hey Addie, what's up?"
"Ohhh a lot."
"Uh-oh, that doesn't sound good."
"There was a fire in my building today."
"Oh my God, are you okay?"
"Yeah, i'm fine...I just have nowhere to go! So...I was wondering if I could stay with you for a week or two."
"Of course, Addie, you don't even have to ask!"
"Thanks Mere. Jeremy's away on business, so it'll just be me."
"So is it okay if I come tonight, like...in an hour?"
"Yes! Addie, come now!"
"Thank you." she said sincerely.
They hung up and Meredith went back and sat down at the table.
"We better save a few pieces for Addie."
"She's coming over?"
"Her building caught on fire, she's coming to stay for a couple weeks."
"Really?! That's so exciting!!"
"Yeah...it'll be nice to have her around more."
Things went well for a few days. John was away with his band, so it was just the girls, and they had a great time. Consequently, something happened with Leah at school about four days into Addie's stay that put an immediate end to the fun.
Meredith was sitting alone in her office at work to return mail and update her blog, a new job requirement. Apparently her fans were desperate to know what she spent every minute of her day doing. Meredith was puzzled by this; she didn't find herself all that interesting. Her phone rang, and assuming it was just some sort of business call, she let it go to voicemail, but the caller didn't leave a messege. Seconds later her cell phone rang.
"This is Miss Berkley, Leah's principal."
"Oh....hi" Mereidth said, panicking slightly. "Can I help you?"
"Leah and her friends were caught with alcohol today at lunch. You have to come pick her up, she's been suspended."
"Could you elaborate a little?"
"Leah and a couple other girls were caught by the back fence of the school yard drinking rum."
"What? That's just ridiculous."
"You're right, it is. Luckily they didn't drink much, but still...these kids are thirteen. It isn't acceptable."
"Yes, I understand. I'll be right there."
Within a half hour Meredith walked through the front doors of Leah's school and opened the heavy door to the office. She immediately saw Leah and her three closest friends sitting in chairs lining the wall.
"Can I help you?" the secretary asked.
"Yes, I'm just here to pick Leah up."
"Miss. Berkley would like a word with you first" the secretary said. "You can go right in."
Meredith rolled her eyes a little, irritated and embarassed to be metting with this principal once again. She must seem like the world's worst parent. She went into the small room where three other mothers were sitting. She said hello and sat down.
"So...we meet again" the principal said, as if it was a funny situation. Nobody laughed. "I just wanted to quickly talk to you all about this situation. These four firls have been getting into trouble together a lot lately. Most of it's been minor things, but some of it hasn't. I'm afraid that if it isn't dealt with they could get quite out of control. They seem to feed off of eachother. They're all good, sweet girls...apart. But together, they aren't. I don't want to tell you to discourage them from being friends because we all know that that doesn't work. But I really do encourage you all to deal with this very seriously. If all the girls know how much trouble they'll be in if they misbehave, they might discourage the others. Do you all understand what I'm saying here?" They all nodded their heads. "Good. So please deal with this seriously. The girls will be allowed back at school in five days."
"Five days?!" one of the moms exclaimed.
"Yes, five days." the principal said firmly. They not only brought alcohol onto school property, but they also drank it. This is a serious matter."
"Do you know who's house the alcohol came from?" Another parent asked.
"Yes, we do." the principal looked at Meredith. "It came from Leah. But I want to emphasize that after talking with the girls it became clear that this was a joint effort. They just decided who was to take it, and this time it happened to be Leah."
"This time?" Meredith asked.
"Well...there was another incident. We were unaware of it at the time, but another student informed us of the situation several days later so there was essentially nothing we could do about it. And we did talk to the girls about the first incident, and it turns out that the alcohol was supplied by Larissa. So...like I said, don't blame only one child for this. It's just as much Hannah, Larissa and Jill's fault as it is Leah's."
The parents trickled out of the room, their kids stood up and silently they all left the building. Meredith opened Leah's car door, Leah got in, and Meredith slammed it behind her. This was a sure sign she was in trouble. She knew that what she did was really bad and that Meredith would be really mad at her, so she was too scared to say anything. Meredith was too angry to say anything, so they drove back to the studio silently. Meredith still had to shoot an episode, which meant a few more hours of work. They went into Meredith's office at work, and Leah sat down on the couch. Meredith went into the changeroom and got dressed, and left the room without saying a word. Leah had never seen her so mad that she wouldn't speak to her, and Leah had never been so scared that she wouldn't speak to Meredith. She watched the taping on the monitor, and knew Meredith wasn't acting quite as bubbly and kooky as usual.
As Leah waited, she began to go over the day's events in her mind and greatly regretted doing all of it. She suddenly realized that Addie would be at home, and that she might hear Leah being spanked. What if Meredith spanked her in front of Addie? She wouldn't, would she? She wouldn't spank her in front of John, but maybe that's because John was a guy? She was definately freaking out. Then her mind went to the last spanking she received for trying smoking with her friends. Meredith had spanked her with a belt rather than with her hand or hairbrush, and the pain was unbearable. She remembered the few welts and bruises that had emerged the last time, and how it was difficult for her to sit down for several days afterwards. Her stomach filled with butterflies and she wanted to cry. She didn't have any more time to persue this thought because Meredith opened the door and came in, followed by her assistant and best friend Emily.
"Leah! Hey sweetie, what are you doing here, why aren't you downstairs watching the show?"
"Hi" Leah said quietly.
"What's wrong?" Emily asked.
"Leah's upset because she and her friends were caught drinking at school and were suspended."
"Oh...oh wow. Well, I'm gonna go, I'll see ya tomorrow Mere." and with that, Emily left. Leah was so embarassed that tears started to streak her face.
"Let's go" Meredith said as she gathered her bags. Leah stood up, wiped her face, and followed Meredith out the door. They drove home in silence, with the occasional sniffle from Leah, who was trying to stifle the lump that was growing in her throat. They got out of the car, and finally Meredith spoke, calmly, firmly, and without much emotion.
"You can go to your room and stay there." Leah immediately went inside. Addie, who got home before they did, was in the livingroom, and called out a "Hey Leah!" which received no response. Leah just went right upstairs into her room and closed the door. Meredith came in shortly after, and before Addie even had a chance to say hi Meredith was upstairs in her room with the door closed. Addie went up and knocked on Meredith's door, then went in. Meredith was sitting on the end of her bed with her head in her hands.
"Mere? What's wrong?" It was rare for Meredith to cry....very rare. But she was. Addie sat down beside her and hugged her. "What?"
"I don't know what I'm doing wrong! It doesn't make any sense"! Meredith cried.
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Leah! She just keeps doing these things and I don't know what to do!"
"I'm gonna go make you a cup of coffee" Addie said, and left. She returned five minutes later and Meredith had composed herself. She handed Meredith her coffee.
"Thank you sweetie."
"So what happened?" Addie asked, sitting down in Meredith's big cozy chair.
"I had to go pick Leah up from school today, she and her friends were suspended for drinking...and Leah stole the rum from...here."
"This isn't the first time I've had to pick Leah up....and a few months ago John and I found out that she and her friends tried smoking."
"Well...ya know, this is typical teenager stuff. I did all that...you did all that."
"Yeah, we did...when we were fifteen or sixteen, not thirteen!"
"I know...but you know kids these days...it's different."
"Well, it's not going to be different for Leah! This is how kids end up being poor, uneducated prisoners!"
"You might be exaggerating a little."
"Probably. But still."
"She'll be okay Mere. You and John are great parents."
"But we're not her parents."
"Yes, you are. You are. You're the only parents she has that matter. You're doing great."
"Then why is she doing these things?!"
"Because she's a kid!"
"So you're saying I should just let it go?"
"Of course not. That's what makes kids end up being poor, uneducated prisoners." Meredith laughed at this. "Meredith, do you spank Leah?"
"Oh God....yes...is that bad?!"
"I don't know! I don't have kids!" They laughed again, and Meredith's tension started to melt a little.
"I just didn't know what to do. I didn't start spanking her until like....this year...10 months ago maybe. She just seemed out of control. She was a twelve year old acting like she was twenty...not coming home when she was told, John had to go hunt her down a couple times because she wouldn't answer her phone. Then we decided that nothing else was working. I don't know if it's the right thing or not."
"I don't know either. I can't help ya there...but Leah's great...I love her to death...and you and John are partly responsible for how great she is."
"So....are you going to spank her tonight?"
"I think I have to."
"Maybe I'll go out for a while then...save Leah the embarassment."
"That would be very kind of you."
"Nowish. I feel a lot more like I can handle this than I did a couple hours ago."
"Well then, I'll be back in...an hour?"
"Thank you so much Addie" Meredith said hugging her.
Meredith went to Leah's door and took a deep breath. She knocked, and opened the door to find Leah sitting on her bed looking at the floor. It didn't look like she'd moved since she came home. She still had her denim jacket on, and her school bag was sitting right beside her bed. Meredith sat down beside her, shifting her weight so that she could look at Leah. Leah didn't look up.
"I think we should talk about this" Meredith said.
"Okay" Leah answered quietly.
"You know that you aren't allowed to drink...you have neither my permission or the state's permission...it's illegal."
"So why did you do it?"
"We were just talking about stuff...me and my friends...and we wanted to know what it was like to drink."
"Did it cross your mind at all that it was wrong? That you shouldn't be doing it?"
"And you did it anyways." Leah nodded her head.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have" Leah offered.
"Your principal thinks that this is pretty serious. She thinks you and your friends feed off one another. Apparently you girls have been getting into quite a bit of trouble lately hmm?" Leah nodded again. "Is there a reason? Are you guys just bored or what?"
"I don't know, we just...we talk about these things and then we do them."
"Like the smoking a few months ago."
"And you were punished pretty seriously for that weren't you?" Leah nodded. "So did you think about that punishment at all when you decided to go along with your friends and steal my alcohol and drink?"
"I did...I just...." Leah stopped.
"I just didn't think that we'd get caught."
"Thanks for being honest about that. I'm glad that you did get caught, I have no way to know what you're doing these days Leah, your behaviour is very unpredictable. Ya know, I haven't had to spank you in a long time....I thought it was because you realized that the things you were doing were wrong and that you finally started to listen to John and I. And now I wonder...maybe you were still doing the things you know you aren't allowed to do, but you haven't been getting caught. Maybe I need to be more strict with you Leah."
"No, you don't! I haven't been doing anything wrong! Well...maybe some things...I'm not perfect. But I do try Meredith, I swear! I'm not trying to make things harder for you and John...I know you didn't choose to be stuck with me, I really am trying."
"Alright, stop right there. We're not stuck with you. We want you Leah. We wouldn't have it any other way, and you know that. I know that part of growing up means sometimes doing things you know you aren't allowed to do. I was a kid not too long ago, and Mom and Dad would have freaked out if they knew about some of the things that I did. But the world is a scary place right now, it's different than when I was a kid. I'm trying to look out for you. I really do want you to be okay Leah, I have rules for a reason."
"I know, I'm sorry."
"I think it would be a good idea if for a few weeks you just stayed with John and I. I'm sorry Leah, but I don't feel that I can trust you when you're with your friends anymore. And if that means that you'll have to be supervised all the time, then so be it. It's unfortunate. I really would like to give you your space, but I don't think it's a good idea right now. So you're not allowed to go to your friends' houses for a while, or out shopping with them or whatever. You may have them over here, but be warned, John and I will be in the room with you at all times."
"I think that's a little drastic Meredith."
"I don't. You've shown that you can't be responsible when you're with your friends, and I'm not about to tell you that you can't be friends with them...I know that would just lead to more problems. So what I can do is supervise you all the time. And that's how it's going to be from now on." Leah didn't say anything. She only looked at the ground.
"And you'll have to be punished for this Leah...you know that right?" Leah still said nothing and looked at the ground. Meredith put her hand on Leah's knee. "Leah?" Leah looked up. "I love you and I only want you to be safe." Leah wiped a tear away and leaned into Meredith who then put her arm around her and smoothed her hair.
....to be continued