Buffy stared at the latest pair of shoes her father offered to buy her and merely shrugged. They were expensive shoes, a pair he thought she should at least get a little excited over. That had been the case for the entire summer, and her mood seemed to be getting worse now that she was slated to return to her mother tomorrow. As her mood worsened his shopping spree grew more frantic, looking for something, anything to cheer her up.
Hank Summers had no idea what was bothering his daughter and there was no getting her to tell him. He had thought at first it was because of the divorce and the move. Joyce taking her to Sunnydale left them far enough away that he just could not see her every weekend.
He knew he had not been overly attentive her first few months away from Los Angeles, but he had stayed away intentionally. He was letting her get settled in a new house, at a new school and hopefully with some new friends. He had thought that might be why she was acting so distant toward him, but she had assured him they were fine. Whatever fine meant.
He paid for the shoes and added them to the other back-to-school purchases he had made on this trip to the mall. He was at a loss as to what to suggest now. "How about a movie and dinner?" he asked when his eyes fell on the movie theatres. "I've heard George of the Jungle is good for a laugh or two."
"Sure," Buffy said lethargically.
"We can see something else if you want."
"No, George of the Jungle is fine, Dad. Really." She was not convincing, but Hank had to take her at her word.
George of the Jungle seemed to have done the trick. Hank was witness to Buffy laughing more than once during the movie. After the movie they had dinner at a Mexican restaurant that Hank frequented for business dinners. The food was good, the service efficient and the prices were reasonable. They had talked and it was the first time Hank felt his daughter let down her guard and let him in. True, he had made no great break through, but the fact she had said more than two monosyllabic words to him at one time was a big deal this summer.
She had been social during the summer; less than he had expected given it had been months since she had seen her friends from Hemry. He supposed he should be glad she managed to not burn any buildings down and in general stayed out of trouble. Her boyfriend from Hemry had called on her a few times, but within two weeks his attentiveness had petered out and dwindled down to being non-existent. Buffy never mentioned a boyfriend in Sunnydale and Hank was quite certain if there had been someone his daughter was serious about her mother would have mentioned it to Hank.
Currently, they were en route to Sunnydale. It was a beautiful day, so the convertible top was down and the radio was loud enough that talking was not necessary. Hank would have liked to talk to Buffy, but the closer they got to Sunnydale the quieter she became.
"Honey," he said, turning down the radio. "Did you have a good summer?"
"Sure, Dad, it was fine."
"You got along well with your friends?"
"Okay," he said quietly and grew pensive. "Is it Sunnydale, sweetie? Is there something wrong that you aren't telling me?"
She was quiet for a long time and Hank wondered if she was finally going to tell him. "No, Dad," she said. "Everything's fine."
"Things should be better this fall, you won't be the new girl at school anymore," he offered, taking a stab at what the problem might be.
"Dad, it's not school."
"Is it a boy then? I noticed you didn't spend much time with Tyler."
"I'm so over Tyler, Dad," Buffy said. She reached for the volume knob, turning it louder once more as she lowered her shades so he could no longer see her eyes. He imagined this was her way of ending the conversation.
They passed the sign announcing their entrance to Sunnydale and Hank Summers felt a moment of panic. What if this moodiness was because of him? He shook his head and recalled the time they had spent together shortly before summer. She had been so sincerely happy to see him that he could not believe he was the problem.
He drove the car onto the driveway of his ex-wife's home on Revello Drive and Buffy was quick in getting out. "I'll get my suitcase," she said, which meant she was leaving Hank with the boxes and bags of things he had bought for her during the summer.
"Sure thing, honey," he said, popping the trunk before cutting the engine and getting out.
"I'm home," he heard Buffy call out to her mom.
"You made it just in time for dinner," Joyce said.
"I'm not real hungry," Buffy said.
"Well, it will keep until later when you are hungry then," Joyce said approaching the front door. Hank gave her a slight smile. "Do you need some help?"
"Just holding the door open."
"Okay," she said with a laugh as she saw the number of packages he was carrying.
"I put my suitcase upstairs, I'll unpack later, I'm going to go see what Willow and Xander are up to."
"We do have a telephone you know, Buffy. You just got home."
"I want to surprise them. I'll see you later," she said, kissing her mom's cheek.
"Nice to know she missed me," Joyce said.
"Don't take it personally, I may as well have not been alive most of the summer," he said, carrying the packages upstairs. "That's the most enthusiastic I've seen her."
"She's a teenaged girl, Hank, and she's good at it."
"I hope that's all it is."
"I remember what it's like to be her age and it's not easy."
He nodded, not quite sure he believed that was all that was wrong with Buffy but thought perhaps it could be the cause of a good deal of her moodiness. "I'll show you what I bought her so you don't duplicate anything."
"Great, she'd rather have all of her school clothes from LA anyway, so you saved me a trip."
Hank set the packages on Buffy's bed beside her suitcase, hoping Buffy would come out of whatever it was that had her down. He believed she was, she was a resilient girl but he could not help but believe that this time was different and was more than the hormonal issues his ex was attributing it to. Unfortunately, not living in the same house as his daughter he could only speculate and do what he could from LA.