“Mother,” said Max sternly. “Try to relax. Terri’s a big girl, she can take care of herself.”
“Can she?” snapped my father, tone harsh and flat.
I swallowed hard. I’d been dreading this conversation ever since my father abruptly hung up the phone over a month ago. I’d just informed him that I’d be dropping out of college to have the child. A part of me was grateful that Max organized this little get-together. I supposed that it was going to have to happen at some point. I was also grateful that he chose such a public space. The chances that my mother would throw an embarrassing fit seemed far less likely. She tended to become quite shrill when she was upset, and no matter how many times you told her to lower her voice, she’d yell that she wasn’t yelling at all. Despite her small size, she had a set of lungs that would make professional singers jealous.
But my father was the stoic one. He was the type of person who grew deathly quiet, face hard and unreadable. I knew him well enough to know that if he ever pressed his lips into a thin line and crossed his arms before his chest, thick greying brows pulled into a frown, that meant trouble. It especially didn’t help that he sported a thick moustache over his top lip, which only added to the severity of his overall appearance. At first glance, he was intimidating. He let my mother do all the talking as he gauged the heat of the argument, chiming in to make pointed statements that pierced like a knife through flesh. Right now, he was only frowning, so I figured I had a few good minutes before shit really hit the fan.
“Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl yet?” asked my mother, fawning over me like when I was a little girl. My mother always loved to play with my hair, treating me like her own real-life doll.
I shook my head. “The doctors won’t be able to find out for another few weeks.”
“It doesn’t matter,” stated my father, “because you’re not going to be keeping it.”
I held my breath, the blood in my veins running cold. “I’ve already told you that’s not going to happen.”
“Mija,” sighed my mother, “be reasonable. You have your whole future ahead of you.”
“Yes,” I muttered angrily, “I’m not arguing with that. I have my future ahead of me, and it just so happens to be with a child in my life.”
“How are you going to take care of it?” grumbled my father. “I didn’t work my ass off to put you through college only for you to be a drop out.”
“Your father’s right,” my mother chimed in. “Without a good education, you’ll never be able to find a good paying job. Raising a child is expensive. I would know, I raised two.”
“Can we all just take a step back here?” asked Max, coming to my defense. “Let’s not fight.”
“This isn’t a fight,” huffed my father. “There’s nothing to fight about. Terri will not keep the baby if she knows what’s good for her.”
“Father, please,” I grumbled, “I’ve already made my decision.”
“Mija, being a single mother is going to be difficult,” protested my mother. “Have you tried calling Chris again?”
My father scoffed, crossing his arms. We were really about to get into it now. “That son of a bitch,” he grumbled fiercely. “He thinks he can just knock up our daughter and walk away? If I ever see him, I’m going to beat him within an inch of his life.”
“Stop it,” I hissed.
“If he thinks he can just ruin our daughter, he’s got another thing coming.”
I slammed my hands down onto the table, cutlery rattling loudly. “I’m not ruined,” I exclaimed. Hot, angry tears welled up in the corners of my eyes. I quickly wiped at them, refusing to let them fall. “I can’t say for certain that I’ve got everything figured out, but my life isn’t over just because I refused to give up on this child.”
“You’re hormonal,” argued my father. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“But I do. You’re all just stressing me out. Do you honestly believe I haven’t thought about any of this? Look, I get it. I didn’t plan to become pregnant, but you can’t tell me what to do and control me. I’ve made my decision, and so has Chris. I’m more than willing to do whatever it takes to give this baby a life that it deserves.”
“That’s just it, mija,” my mother complained. “You’re willing to do whatever it takes now. But one day, you’ll realize all the things that you missed out on because you were too busy taking care of the baby. You’ll never get a chance to break out into the career you wanted. You’ll struggle to put food on the table. One day, you might just wake up to resent the child because it represents all of the missed opportunities that passed you by.”