I sniffle again, looking at the sea horse in my hand.
“He called me his mermaid,” I say. “But it turns out that I wasn’t, not really.” Then I tell her the ending of the story: the messages at the hotel, the argument on the plane, and the gorgeous raven-haired bombshell waiting for him once we hit the tarmac at JFK.
“Did she see you, though?” asks Melissa with confusion.
“Yes,” I nod. “Clearly, she and Keith have some kind of open relationship. Everyone knows he bangs his personal assistants, and I was just the most recent. I guess she lets him get it out of his system, before coming back to her.”
Melissa is disgusted.
“That no-good, manwhore, son of a bitch! What the hell? I knew he was too good to be true. He cannot use my best friend like that and get away with it. How are you still okay with being his assistant? Has he said anything about the trip to you since you’ve been back? What type of work does he have you doing for him now that he’s seen you naked?”
“I haven’t been doing any work. My paycheck is still getting deposited but I haven’t heard a thing from Corrine, who usually gives me my assignments. I don’t know what to do. No one is hiring right now because of this stupid virus, and I still have bills to pay so I can’t just quit. I certainly don’t want to be without health insurance during a pandemic.”
Melissa squints with confusion again.
“So he hasn’t even tried to get in touch with you?”
I take a deep breath.
“No, he has. He’s been calling and texting and e-mailing, but I don’t respond. I just ignore the calls and delete the others without reading them. I can’t take the lies, Mel. I really believed I was different and that he cared about me, but now you can see what’s happened. I feel like such a fool.”
Melissa’s eyes widen.
“OMG, I bet this is what happened to Jane. He used her up and spit her out like chewing gum.”
I nod glumly.
“Yeah, pretty much because I accused him of sleeping with Jane and he didn’t deny it. I guess I was just another one of his women,” I say morosely. “Fuck, I need more ice cream.”
Shamelessly, I walk to the kitchen and pull another half-gallon of chocolate peanut butter out of the freezer.
“Kelsey,” Melissa says from my phone, which is still in the living room. “This is really weird. Are you having a craving? Because you hate peanut butter, remember?”
“You’re right, I do.”
Melissa nods as I sit down again.
“Girlfriend, I almost don’t want to say it, but could you be pregnant? Have you been using birth control?”
I almost drop the ice cream on the floor.
“Oh shit, Mel, it must be the time change because I was jetlagged and confused for a bit there. It wasn’t long, but I think I messed up my birth control pills and didn’t realize it. Oh shit, oh shit. I’ve been feeling nauseous for a while now, but I thought it was all the junk food I was eating. Oh shit! Mel, what am I going to do if I’m pregnant?”
My friend stays calm.
“Okay, okay, no need to panic. Let’s take this one step at a time. Put on a mask and go down to the grocery store and buy a pregnancy test, okay? Let’s just see what it says first.”
But my panic is rising.
“A mask? My Halloween stuff is all packed away.”
Melissa tries to calm me down again.
“Not for Halloween, silly. To protect you from the virus. Just tie a bandana around your face, go buy the test, pee on the stick and call me back.”
I’m immediately brought back to reality.
“Right, you’re right. Will do. Great, I’m going to look like a pregnant train robber. I’ll call you back in a few.”
Like a woman in a trance, I pull out my trusted hankie and wrap it around my nose and mouth before speeding down to the drugstore. I buy two tests before rushing back to my apartment and peeing on the two sticks. Then I wait. And wait. And wait. Time has never passed so slowly.
A cross forms on the indicators and I scramble to read the boxes. Oh shit, both results are positive. My heart drops as my eyes widen. How could I have been so irresponsible? Jet lag did this to me? It’s so fucking awful as to be laughable.
I text Melissa to tell her that I have to think, and that I’ll call her in an hour. Then, I sink down to the bathroom floor, leaning against the cold tile. Do I want to be a single mom? Can I do this all by myself? Where will I put a baby in this tiny apartment?
Slowly, my hand creeps over my belly, as if already protective of the life within. In my heart of hearts, I already know the answer. I want this baby. She or he is a reminder of how strong and confident I can be, and how I once fell in love in an island paradise. I call Melissa back.