Grandpa reaches for the pen.
Grandma follows suit.
The hot sting of tears fill my eyes. If I sign this, I’ll never be able to tell Thayer about the pregnancy—I’ll never be able to contact him in any way, shape, or form for the next two decades.
“This isn’t right,” I say as thick tears slide down my cheeks and land on the paperwork below.
“Neither is that thing growing in your belly right now,” he says.
“You mean your first great-grandchild?” I ask. I know family means the world to him and while it sickens me to know this baby has a drop of Bertram’s blood, I’m also not afraid to give him a taste of his own medicine and use that fact against him.
“Why do you think I’ve so generously provided for its education?” he asks. “Given the strange and bizarre circumstances that I tried my damnedest to prevent, I think I’m being awfully generous here.”
“Sign the paperwork, Lila,” Grandpa says under his breath.
“What happens if I don’t?” I ask.
“Lila, you don’t have a choice,” Grandpa says, shoving the pen in my hand. “We don’t have a choice.”
I look into his pain-filled eyes and think about everything this is costing them. Their job security. Their home. Their livelihood.
Everything they’ve worked their entire lives for.
And then I think about Thayer and the great things he’s going to do with that Yale law degree someday. If I don’t sign the paper and if I tell Thayer, my grandparents will be homeless and Thayer will have to drop out of school.
I try to look at this the way Thayer would. He was always good at finding the upside to every troublesome situation. I can’t be certain, of course, but I feel like he would make his decision based on what’s in the best interest of the baby, the innocent life who didn’t ask to be dragged into this.
Without saying another word, I sign the NDA and toss the pen when I’m done.
“Excellent,” Howard says, gathering the paperwork into a pile. “And here are your copies. I’d like you to ensure that every line of this is memorized frontwards and back. If you have any questions, you can contact my attorney. His number is at the top of every page.”
He speaks to us like we’re morons.
“Don’t forget,” he adds, checking his watch. “The boat will be at the dock at noon. That leaves you with three hours to pack your things.”
Grandma looks at Grandpa, her eyes glassy. I’m sure she’s wondering how she’s going to pack a lifetime of personal belongings in a three-hour window.
Howard leaves without saying goodbye and without so much as thanking my grandparents for their decades of loyalty and service to his family.
“I have to tell you something,” I say. I’m going to tell them about Thayer.
“Not now, Lila,” my grandmother flits around the room, gathering small glass knick-knacks and framed photos of my mother and I in younger years. “Pack your things. We don’t have time to chat.”
I rush down the hall, passing my grandparents’ bedroom and watching as my grandfather stuffs clothes into an open suitcase on the bed.
The gravity of the situation sinks into me when I get to my room. Grabbing my suitcase from under the bed, I pack my things with tear-stained vision.
I didn’t just sign an NDA today.
I signed away a future with the man I love.
“What are you doing on Saturday?” Ashlan is sprawled on my bed, thumbing through the photos on her phone. This is what she does. Shows up unannounced. Makes herself at home. Tries to weasel her way into my social life.
“I’m doing some intramural lacrosse thing with some guys from my philosophy class,” I say. At least this time it’s the truth.
“You suck.” She rolls to her stomach, eyes still glued to her iPhone. “Don’t you ever hate being so busy all the time?”
“No, I love it.” If I keep busy, it distracts me from missing Lila and makes the days go by faster, which puts me that much closer to May.
“Are you going home for all of Christmas break?” she asks.
“That’s, like, three months from now. Why are you asking?”
“Because I’d like to hang out with you at least once before the year is over. I feel like you never make time for me anymore.” She sits up, her bottom lip pouting. “At least at home you don’t have intramurals or clubs or study groups or whatever.”
She has a point.
“I’m still mad at you about last summer,” she says.
“Mad at me for what?”
She scoffs. “Thayer. I came all the way to the island to visit you for five days and you barely gave me the time of day. You were all hung up on that blonde girl. That maid.”
“What was her name again?” Ashlan asks, messing with her phone.