Honor Thy Father and Mother

"I just think it's a perfectly natural way for a young girl to act out," said Sheila, pouring herself a second cup of coffee.

"I don't think there is anything perfectly natural about hiding a suitcase full of archaic weapons and crucifixes under the bed," said Ira. He was methodically tearing his piece of coffee cake into a thousand shreds of sugary crumb.

"So she's going to those renaissance faires and not telling us about it? What's to worry?" She slapped his hand and swiped the last manageable chunk of coffee cake off his plate.

Ira glared at her. "An axe, four wooden stakes, and a dagger, and you are convinced she's just going to renaissance faires? What if she's gotten caught up in something... dangerous?"

"Now, Ira," said Sheila, through a mouthful of coffee cake. She patted his hand in a way which was meant to be reassuring. "You know this isn't about the weapons."

"Oh?" he asked, raising one eyebrow archly. "What is this about, then?"

"It's about the crucifixes, isn't it?" she said, holding his gaze. "And the fact that your mother is going to be here tomorrow."

He looked away, suddenly unable to meet her eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

"Oh, Ira, darling," she said, insincerely. "Phyllis is a darling, but you're afraid she won't understand the phases that teenage girls go through. She'll think the crucifixes mean something more than... philosophical exploration. Like that period in college when I was a Buddhist."

"It's not about Ma. It's not that." His hand clenched into a fist under her still-stroking palm. "It's just -- a crucifix, Sheila? I know we didn't want her to have a religious upbringing, but did we go so wrong?" He looked down at his plate of coffee cake crumbs. "There's a difference between saying we don't want to bring up a child to abide by a set of arbitrary and archaic religious doctrines, and having her --" he shuddered, and continued, "worship Jesus."

Sheila turned over his clenched fist and gently pried open his fingers. She interlaced them with her own and waited until he looked up and caught her eyes. "We'll get through this, honey," she said, in a gentler tone that she had used so far. "We'll get through this. Willow is a good girl."