3 Is a Magic Number Ch. 14
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I stood there silently, in that tiny bathroom next to Julia. I knew what the two lines on the test meant as much as she did. My sister was pregnant. More to the point, my sister was pregnant with my baby. Suddenly the air in the room felt too thick to breathe, and I had to get out of there. I dropped the pee stick on the floor, and stumbled out of the room, while clawing at the crew neck of my t-shirt. It didn’t help; I still couldn’t seem to breathe.
“Jack,” Julia said my name, while trying to grab my hand. “She still needs to take a second test. This one might be wrong.” Her words barely registered in my mind. I needed fresh air to breathe. I slipped out of her grip, and stumbled down the stairs, and pushed open the front door and into the already ninety degree heat. I finally seemed able to breathe a little, and when I came to myself, I was sitting behind the wheel of my mom’s Cadillac Escalade; with the engine started, and the air conditioning blasting in my face. I shifted into reverse, turned around, and rumbled down the long dirt driveway.
I had no idea where I was going, I just knew that I had to get away from here for a while, and process all that was happening inside my head. I back tracked the route from Ruby’s to the freeway. I saw a huge park before I got to the freeway, and decided that it would be a lot safer to walk around the park and think, rather than driving around in my frantic state of mind. I pulled into a parking space, grabbed my phone, and hopped out of the SUV. I walked around the long bike trail a couple of times, sweating through my t-shirt; but my thoughts were going in circles as sure as my body was.
I sat down on a bench, and closed my eyes. I heard two kids shouting as they played. I opened my eyes up and watched them. They looked to be about ages three and four. One was a boy, and the other was a girl, and their mother hovered near them as they played on a toddler sized jungle gym. She looked to be in her early twenties. The kids were playing a game that I couldn’t begin to understand. I wondered if that’s how my kid would be in a few years; Katie and Julia sitting at the park, watching he, or she play. It filled me with dread, but at the same time it made me happy. I was going to be a dad, and the woman that I loved most in this world was going to be the mother of my child. Yes, there would be plenty of obstacles that we will have to overcome; but one way or another, in another eight months, Katie and I would be parents. I leaned back, and took a deep cleansing breath, let it out, and took another.
A thought occurred to me. Ever since my vacation, I have been only sharing my problems with my sister, and Julia. Maybe it was time for me to get a fresh perspective. I picked up my phone, and scrolled my contacts for my best friend, Murphy. He had moved to Sterling Heights from Pittsburgh when we were both in the eighth grade. He was a very easy going guy, and we became quick friends. If anyone would be receptive to the craziness that was happening in my life it would be Murph. He was level headed, and we were almost like brothers; well, maybe close cousins. I hit the call icon. It rang four times, and then it went to voicemail. I left him a short message: “Murph, when you get this give me a call. I have something serious that I need to talk to somebody about, and you are my best friend, so give me a call back.” I hope that didn’t sound too frantic. I am not the kind of person who depends on other people to help with my problems. I guess I get all that self-reliant bullshit from my dad. When I pushed the end call icon, I noticed that I had a voicemail. That’s strange, I don’t even remember hearing my phone ringing on the way here. I clicked the icon, and it dialed my voicemail. The voice on the other end said that I had three new messages. The first played.
“What the fuck, Jack?” It was Julia, and she sounded really pissed. “She takes the test, and you run out of here like you are on fire. Are you fucking crazy? She is crying hysterically, and has locked herself in the bathroom. Great fucking job, dumbass! You need to get your shit together, and then come and talk to her, or I will personally kick your balls into orbit.” The message ended, and the next message started.
“Jack, honey, this is mom. Are you ok? You ran out of the house, and drove down the driveway like a bat out of hell. I don’t mind you borrowing the car, but I would at least appreciate you telling me that you are taking it. Call me and let me know that you are ok.” Mom didn’t sound pissed, she just sounded worried. The third message started.
“Hey bro.” It was my cousin Tommy. “I saw you fly out of here, and I figured that can only mean one thing; you have problems. I’m here to talk if you need anything. Get at me, cuz.” The final message faded, and I didn’t bother deleting any of them. I got into the text screen, and sent my mom a text apologizing for not asking first, and letting her know that I was ok; and then I texted Katie.
Me: Katie, I love you more than bahis firmaları life itself. I just had to catch my breath. This is big news, and we will figure this out together. How could having a child with the woman that I love not be a good thing? I’m sorry that I freaked. I will be home in a little while. I love you. Please don’t cry.
Then I went into my contacts, and called Tommy. He picked up on the third ring.
“Hey, Jackie! Are you ok? Some crazy shit is going down here, and I figure that you must be in on it.”
“I’m fine, Tom.” I looked around for a sign, and found one. “I’m at Clairmont Park, down toward the expressway.” He never even missed a beat before he answered.
“Do you want me to come down? You sound like you could use a friend to talk to.”
“Yeah, Tommy. That would be great. What’s going on there?”
“I’ll tell you when I get there. It will take ten or fifteen minutes.” I could have sworn that I drove for an hour to get here. I guess that I’m lucky that I didn’t wrap the SUV around a telephone pole. “See you in a few, bro.” He hung up, and took a deep breath. Hiding the truth, and lying to everyone sounded easy in theory, but it caused me a lot of stress. Now I will finally be able to let someone know the truth. My heart felt lighter at the prospect of sharing; but I also felt dread at what his reaction would be. Would he be horrified, or would he understand? I had no way of knowing, without unburdening myself to him. In what seemed like no time, Tommy’s silver Toyota Camry swung into the parking space next to my mom’s white Cadillac. He walked the sixty feet over to the bench, and sat down next to me.
“So what is going on at the house?” I asked. I already knew what the answer would be.
“Your sister had locked herself in the bathroom, and was crying like a baby who just got spanked for the first time.”
“Oh.” It was like he had punched me in the gut. It was getting hard to breathe again.
“Julia was trying to keep your parents from finding out, but I think that your mom had got involved by the time that I left. If one and one still add up to two, that means that her crying, and you storming off are related.” I winced at the word “related.”
“Yeah, Tommy, that is a safe bet. If I tell you something, will you try not to freak out?”
“You mean something like the fact that you and Julia snuck out last night to have sex behind the barn?” This totally floored me.
“How do you know that?”
“Easy,” he said with a smug grin, “I followed you to see what you were up to. I must say, that was not what I expected to happen. I thought you two were going out there to smoke a joint, or something. I almost walked up, and asked if I could hit it too, when she started ripping off her clothes. I backed up, and decided to be nosy, and see how far things went.”
“So…” I said, lamely. I couldn’t think what else to say. We had been flat out busted in the act.
“Look, Jack, what you two do is your own business. You are both adults, and it looked like you guys were really into it, so who am I to judge? I take it that this is the reason that you sister flipped out? You are sleeping with her best friend?”
He had me until that last sentence. I shook my head, and slowly began to tell him the story of our family vacation earlier in the summer. He listened with rapt attention, and I told everything, but tried to leave out most of the details. I finished, and he just looked away.
“Damn, cuz. That is a lot to lay on me all at once.” He paused, and looked me in the eyes for a full minute. “You really are in love with both of these girls?” I nodded. “Damn.” He dragged the word out in an exaggerated drawl. “That still doesn’t account for her crying, and you driving like a lunatic.”
“No,” I agreed, “It doesn’t.” I paused for a minute, but I figured that I was already this far, why not go all the way. “The reason Katie was so upset was because she took a pregnancy test.”
“Oh, shit.” He reached over, and squeezed my shoulder to try to comfort me.
“That explains a lot. Damn, Jack.” He shook his head. “What are you guys going to do?”
“I don’t know, man. I guess we will continue to do the same thing that we have been doing, keep it a secret.” He snorted a laugh.
“Dude, she might keep being pregnant a secret for a couple of months, but that cat is gonna come out of the bag; sooner or later.” He was right. She could maybe hide it until we left for college, but there would be no hiding it when we came home for Thanksgiving, or Christmas.
“Yeah, you’re right.” I paused, and just looked at him. “Are you saying that you are ok with this? I never heard the word incest come out of your mouth, and you aren’t looking at me like I’m a monster.” He laughed.
“Jack, I think that our society is much too uptight when it comes to making rules, and putting labels on people. Besides, aren’t you two really only related by marriage?” I nodded. “Then it isn’t technically against the law, but most people will probably kaçak iddaa hold it against you. I’ve watched you since you got here, and I have never seen you happier. If whatever you three have works for you, then why not go with it? Some people go their entire lives and never find anyone special, or anyone that loves them. You found two special ladies who love you, and I say to hell with society if they want to tell you that you can’t be together.” I could tell that his public speaking classes were paying off.
“What about my dad, Tom?” My cousin grimaced.
“Your dad will be a different story. Don’t expect him to embrace this, Jack. Your dad is an old fashioned guy, and I can never, ever see him giving you guys his approval. Not with her being his baby girl.” I can see that Tommy had sized the situation up the exact same way that the girls and I had.
“So my dad beats me to death, and my child grows up fatherless? Is that what you see in my future?” Tommy laughed, but I could tell that he didn’t find any humor in this. It was too real of a possibility to find amusing. My father did have a temper.
“Why doesn’t she just say that it was someone else? It was a one night stand, it was all a mistake. That can happen to anyone. You could even look like a good guy by helping your sister out.” Hmmm. It was amazing how someone who isn’t so close to a problem can find different ways of looking at them. That could work; and possibly prevent my early demise at the hands of my father.
“Thanks, Tommy. I feel better after talking a little. I have just been holding this inside so long.”
“No problem, cuz. You can always talk to me about anything. We should probably get back, and do some damage control. You never know what a distraught woman will say. You don’t want her spilling the whole story to your mom.” Tommy had a point.
“I’ll follow you back.”
The way back seemed like it took a half hour, even though the clock said that only ten minutes had passed. We pulled in and parked, and started to enter the house. My dad was sitting on the porch, apparently waiting on me to come home. A lump formed in my throat as I saw the angry expression on his face. This wasn’t going to be good.
“You and I need to talk, Jack. Let’s go for a walk.” My dad clamped his big hand on my shoulder with the strength of a vise. He was not going to take no for an answer. Had Katie spilled everything to mom? If that was the case then this might be my last time walking anywhere. He guided me, none too gently, down the stairs. He started walking down the path towards the barn. It was the same path that I had walked down last night with Julia. He was silent all the way down the path. I could tell that something unpleasant was on his mind, and it looked like he was conflicted about what to do with it. We got to the barn, out of sight of anyone in the house, and he rounded on me. He was furious, and had a homicidal gleam in his eyes.
“Why?” he snarled. I saw my impending doom in his eyes.
“Why what? His eyes burned in his sockets like hot coals. His hands balled into fists, and I tensed myself for the coming blow.
“Why the FUCK would you let your little FUCKING sister FUCK a SOLDIER?”
“DON’T FUCKING WHAT ME, MISTER. I WILL CLEAN YOUR FUCKING CLOCK. WHY DID YOU LET YOUR SISTER GET PREGNANT BY SOME RANDOM SOLDIER?” The puzzlement must have showed on my face, because he forced his hands from the boxing stance he had taken.
“What are you talking about, dad? Katie’s pregnant? WHAT THE FUCK?” He visibly relaxed when he saw my outrage matching his own.
“You mean that you didn’t know that she had sex with some soldier after we left to go back down state?
“No. This is the first that I’ve heard of it.” My dad patted my shoulder.
“I’m sorry, son. I just assumed that you knew. You and your sister have been like two peas in a pod lately.”
“No,” I said tentatively, “I’m totally in the dark about this.”
“I guess that she took a pregnancy test this morning, and when it was positive, she locked herself in the bathroom, crying uncontrollably. This all comes from your mother. She forbade me to speak with her until I ‘calm down.’ She told your mother that the only person that it could possibly be was a soldier from the National Guard base. Some guy named Bill.” I shook my head.
“I don’t know anything about a soldier, dad. Swear to God. She never said anything about it to me.”
“Did she ever leave with anyone one else, or go anywhere without you?”
“Katie and Julia went to the store a couple of times, but other than that, no. They weren’t gone more than fifteen or twenty minutes.”
“It doesn’t take long for a girl to get pregnant, Jack!” He threw up his arms in frustration. “Maybe they met him at the store, and then she snuck off with him after you were asleep.” I felt really shitty telling these lies about my sister and making her look like such a skanky hoe-bag; but I knew the price of telling the truth; and I kept on lying.
“I don’t kaçak bahis know, dad. That doesn’t seem like something that Katie would do.” He nodded, and looked like he was about to throw up.
“Sometimes innocent girls get taken advantage of. I know that she probably wasn’t a virgin. She’s had a few boyfriends who she was more serious about than I would have liked. I bet this guy was some kind of a smooth talker, or maybe he slipped her something.”
“What?” It surprised me how genuine my outrage sounded. “I will FUCKING KILL THAT SONOVABITCH!”
“Calm down, Jack. What’s done is done, and can’t be undone. What we have to do, as we are the only men in Katie’s life, is to support her unconditionally; and not to judge her. We have to be there for her. Can you do that, son?” I was close to tears; not because of my betrayal of my father, but because of his unconditional love of his daughter.
“Yeah, Dad, I can do that. I will be there for her, in whatever way that she needs me.” He gripped my shoulder, and pulled me into a bear hug.
“Thank you, Jack. That’s exactly the kind of man that I tried to raise you to be. You are a hell of a son, and a hell of a brother. She’s lucky to have a brother like you.” Those words bit into me in a way that my father never knew. “Let’s go back, and you can go and talk to her. Please let her know that I love her.”
“Will do, dad.” We walked back, side by side. I wonder if this is how Judas felt walking next to Jesus. I could almost hear the thirty pieces of silver jingling in my pocket.
I walked into the house, and I saw my mom sitting at the kitchen table with Aunt Ruby. She had clearly been crying. Her eyes wondered furtively from me, to my dad, then back to me. I could tell that she didn’t approve of my father’s confrontation, but she seemed relieved that it was over and done with, apparently without incident.
“Is she upstairs?” I asked my mom.
“Yes, Jack, but go easy on her. She is very upset, and just needs someone to be there for her.” I nodded, and slipped past, and continued up the stairs. I knocked on the door, and a few seconds later it opened a crack, and I saw Julia’s big blue eye staring at me.
“Oh thank god,” she muttered, as she let me into the room. Her eyes were red from crying too, and I felt like a huge dick for leaving earlier. My sister was sitting on her bed, with her back propped against the headboard, and her arms wrapped around her knees. It was too close to the fetal position to be anything but a defensive posture. I sat down next to her, but she wouldn’t meet my eyes.
“Hey, beautiful.” I reached my hand out, and put it over top of her tiny hand.
“I’m so sorry for leaving earlier, Kay.”
“It’s OK.” Her voice sounded small, even little girlish. She still never looked at me. “I’m sorry for getting you into this, Jack. I never meant for you to get hurt.”
“What are you talking about, Katie?” Her refusal to look at me was bugging me. I scooted up beside her in the bed, and rested my back on the wall too. I slid my arm around her, and pulled her close. “You’ve never hurt me, babe.”
“I’m pregnant, Jack.” She let that statement hang out there, as if it were unknown to me; or that the mere statement of the fact should lead me to an inevitable conclusion.
“I know, sweetie. I’m so sorry for leaving right after I read the test. I wasn’t trying to abandon you; I just couldn’t catch my breath.”
“It’s ok. I know that was a shock to you. I guess it was less to me; because I think that I already knew, at least on some level.”
“Give me a break, Kay.” Julia’s voice was acerbic. “You haven’t had a period in over a month. There’s no ‘at some level.’ You fucking knew that you were knocked up, and so did I. Don’t try to use this goody-goody act to get sympathy from Jack. If I were him, I would be pissed that you hadn’t taken a test weeks ago.”
“I’m not pissed, Jules. That wasn’t why I left; becoming a father was huge news, even if I suspected that it was a strong possibility.”
“Can you forgive me, Jack?” I didn’t like the vulnerability in her voice. It tore at my heart.
“There is nothing to forgive, Katie. We are going to have a child. This is not the end of the world; in fact, it might be the beginning of our new life together.” Her head turned toward me, and clear green eyes swam with tears. I could always read everything that she felt through her eyes. In them I read love, and happiness, and fear. She hugged me fiercely, and I felt her tears run down my neck. I held her for long minutes, and then I had to give voice to what I saw. “What are you afraid of, sweetie?” She shook as she cried in my embrace. Julia, who had taken my place at the foot of the bed answered.
“She’s afraid that she will never get to go to college, and will turn out to be a loser.” Katie clung to me harder and sobbed audibly. I stared daggers at my Julia. There was a time to be flippant, and a time to be serious, and her attitude wasn’t helping my sister’s state of mind at all.
“Maybe we should just get rid of it,” my sister said, in between uncontrollable sobs. She was crying so hard that I could feel my t-shirt clinging to my skin where her tears were falling. “I could have an ab-ab-abortion.”
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