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         "Amanda, I am not about to continue having this discussion with you."


         Mandy Riker blew air through her teeth, causing her bangs to flutter on her forehead. "Mom, it was one stupid class, one time! I mean, don't I ever get to mess up without you coming down on me?" The 17 year old's eyes flashed with a mixture of hurt, anger, and frustration. Mostly frustration. Her mother just *couldn't* understand.


         Deanna fought down her own growing frustration, as well as the urge to turn away from her daughter. <Maybe I am being hard on her, seeing things that aren't there> No, Mandy had to know that the rules of the house still applied, that she wasn't quite an adult just yet. "It isn't just this class's the secretive, late-night calls, the increasing disregard for your schoolwork, staying out all's too much this time. I don't want you out on school nights, not now, not when I find out you've started to cut classes."


         "It was just ONE skip, Mom! And I promised.....someone.....I'd help them study at the coffee shop tonight. If I don't show up they're going to think that I don't..... Keep my word."


         Deanna raised an eyebrow at her daughter's halting explanation, but let the obvious omissions pass. Closing her eyes, she searched for an appropriate compromise, knowing full well that her daughter's acceptance of any such compromise would be about as genuine as her intention to study that night. "OK, Mandy....if you and your friend need to study, either your father or myself will gladly drop the two of you off at the library, and pick you up when you are done."


         Mandy blinked and stuttered, searching for some sort of reply. She'd been caught in a lie, and she knew it....damn her mother's empathy anyway. "But...but mom, it's so quite in a library, and....well, it's just, libraries aren't my friend's thing really and...."


         Deanna put and end to the games then and there. "Enough, Amanda. Privacy is one thing, but lying to me is quite another. Now, call your.....friend....and tell him," Deanna placed a slight emphasis on the gender, "that you will not be able to go out until the weekend. I'm sure he has rules at his house too, he'll understand that parents have to change your plans once in a while. If he's half as great as you seem to think he is, he won't blame you."


         Mandy tried, she did...but in the end it was as hopeless as always. Despite her best efforts the tears slid uncontrollably down her cheeks. "You don't understand, you can't!!! All you care about is your stupid rules. That's all you ever think about! What about me? What about what I want? Do you ever think about ME at all?" Without waiting for a response to her barrage of emotionally charged questions, Many sprinted up the stars to her bedroom.


         Deanna waited until she heard the deafening slam of her daughter's bedroom door before finally turning away from the staircase to sink defeatedly into a nearby chair. What a day this had been. First that endless staff meeting at the Academy this morning, then the call from Mandy's school  to say that she'd cut class (no doubt with the self same boy at the center of this evening's little escapade), and now this. Just where the hell was Will anyway?


         "Right here, actually." The voice from behind her, coupled with the sudden answer to an unspoken question caused Deanna to sit up with a start. Will Riker gently guided his wife back to rest against the chair and wrapped his arms around her from behind. "Sounded like quite an argument," he whispered against her hair. "What has she done this time?"


         Deanna sighed. "The one thing I never expected. She cut class....with a boy."


         Will came around to face her, looking about as shocked as she felt. "Amanda, our daughter Amanda? Cut class? AMANDA???"


         Deanna understood his reaction. Despite her recent behavior, Mandy loved school. Passionately. She was an exceptionally bright girl, who saw school as a place to leave her mark. One of those rare students teachers talked about until long after they retired. The very thought that she was skipping classes was shocking to say the least, and it didn't leave Deanna with the best of feelings for the young man who had been her counterpart in this whole affair either. She felt it best to voice that particular concern to her husband. "It's this boy she was with at the time that really worries me...she never did any of these things before, and now..."


         Will's eyes changed to a smoldering blue-gray color as anger flared through him. If some punk kid was getting his little girl in trouble he'd -


         Deanna sensed the change in him, and despite her own feelings at the moment, she couldn't repress the grin that was now spreading across her face. To Will, Mandy was still "Daddy's little girl". Her smile faded as she reminded him, "She would have gone if she didn't want to, Will. That's what scares me. He says go and she goes, never mind right and wrong."


         Will nodded. "And so you handled this by telling her what, exactly?"


         "I told her that until her behavior returned to normal, I thought it was best that she not got out on school nights. Then she said she and a friend needed to study, so I suggested that they go to the library and she responded by lying to me. So I called an end to it."


         "I'd say you handled it perfectly, as usual," he tipped her chin up and looked briefly in her eyes. "but it won't stop her from being her mother's daughter."


         Deanna blinked, unsure for a moment of the meaning of Will's last statement. Then it hit her....hard. "Oh god, don't think she would...she's just a girl...she....oh no."


         Will looked at her skeptically. "Maybe you should talk to her, Deanna. Soon."


         Deanna nodded. "Now." She turned and headed up the stairs to Amanda's bedroom. "Mandy?" she called when she reached the door. "Can I come in, please?" Through the still closed door she heard a muffled sound that was something akin to "Why not?" Taking that as an affirmative, Deanna touched the release and stepped inside.


         Mandy turned her tear stained face to the door as her mother entered. "What do you want now? Forget one of you rules or something?" she sniffled.


         Letting the streak of attitude pass for the time being, Deanna moved over and sat down on the bed beside her daughter's sprawled form. "Mandy, sweetheart, if I sounded....harsh, earlier it's only because I worry about you. You're making so many changes, growing up so fast. I know that this changes are important to you, you want to feel independent, make your own decisions. But, when you make those decisions honey, you have to be very careful. Things can happen if you aren't careful."


         Mandy looked up, shocked. "MOM! Just what do you think I'm doing!?!"


         Deanna reached out and rested a calming hand on her daughter's back. "I'm not accusing you of anything, I'm just asking you to be cautious. Think trough your actions, be careful who you trust. That's all, and try to remember that whatever actions you do take will have consequences and responsibilities that go with them."


         "Mom, I get that there are things I'm not supposed to do, if that's what you're thinking. I mean, it isn't like I'd go out and get myself pregnant or something. Not even close, I mean, I'm not THAT stupid."


         Deanna drew back slightly at the force behind the words. "Amanda," she said slowly, "there are other kinds of mistakes, and you don't have to be stupid to make the wrong choices."


         Mandy sat up slowly, slightly confused by her mother's response. "OK, Mom. Look, I'll be careful, I'll stay in on school nights, whatever. Can I just get some sleep now? I have a quiz first period."


         Deanna smiled, delighted by the thought that school was once again among the girl's top priorities. Pushing past the strange feeling in the back of her mind for the moment. Giving her a kiss goodnight, she left Mandy's room and headed for her own.


         When she reached the master bedroom, she found Will sound asleep in their bed, reading Padd in hand. With a tired, yet tender smile she reached out and took the Padd from him, careful not to disturb his rest. ~ God knows one of us should sleep tonight. ~ After turning out the bed side light Will had been using, Deanna found herself staring out the large window on the on the opposite side of the room.


         As she stood gazing out at the darkness of the night and the brightly contrasting lights of the city in the distance, Deanna finally allowed herself to reflect upon her strange reactions to Mandy's statements. Something in what she had said left her cold inside, like a sudden shadow had descended upon her soul. Unfortunately, she had no idea why she should feel that way.