“Father? Mother?” Jonas asked tentatively after the evening meal. “I have a question I want to ask you.”
“What is it, Jonas?” his father asked.
“He made himself say the words, though he felt flushed with embarrassment. He had rehearsed them in his mind all the way home from the Annex.
“Do you love me?”
There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. “Jonas. You, of all please. Precision of language, please!”
“What do you mean?” Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he had anticipated.
“Your father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it’s become almost obsolete,” his mother explained carefully.
Jonas stared at them. Meaningless? He had never before felt anything as meaningful…
“And of course our community can’t function smoothly if people don’t use precise language. You could ask, ‘Do you enjoy me?’ The answer is ‘Yes,'” his mother said.
“Or,” his father suggested, ” ‘Do you take pride in my accomplishments?’ And the answer is wholeheartedly ‘Yes.'”
“Do you understand why it’s inappropriate to use a word like ‘love’?” Mother asked.
Jonas nodded. “Yes, thank you, I do,” he replied slowly.
It was his first lie to his parents.