“Right. Yeah, that makes sense.”
“Maybe next time.”
I nodded slowly. “Yeah. Maybe next time.”
If only my abuela were still alive, she’d probably be beating me over the head with her chancla and telling me I was estupida for getting myself knocked-up. But at the same time, she’d probably be swooning over the baby, spoiling it rotten with treats and toys and all the love she could provide. I sometimes have to pinch myself to be reminded that this isn’t a bad dream.
I’d always been the good girl, the never-wear-my-skirt-too-short girl. I followed all the rules, helped out in the community when I could, always put my family first, and I strived to be at the top of my classes in college. Heck, I didn’t even jaywalk out of fear of getting a ticket. Never in a million years did I think I’d drop out of college to take care of an incoming baby. Never in a million years did I think Chris Lansbury, the love of my life and high school sweetheart, would haul ass the second her found out I was pregnant.
It was all such a blur, really. I could remember bits and pieces of our fight. Throughout the week, I’d been feeling increasingly sick, spewing my guts first thing in the morning and craving the weirdest combinations of food. My newfound favorite pairing? Pickles and peanut butter. It sounded gross, but it was oddly delicious. We always used protection and I was on the pill, so the possibility of being with child honestly hadn’t crossed my mind until the last minute. I walked into the doctor’s office believing I was battling a serious case of the stomach flu. Thirty minutes later, I walked out having learned that I was expecting.
I couldn’t remember the ride home, I couldn’t remember texting Chris that we needed to talk. But what I did remember was that Chris wanted nothing to do with the baby and how heartbroken I was when he turned on his heel to leave. He said he had to focus on his football career. He’d gotten into college on a full-ride athletic scholarship and was the quarterback for the varsity team. Chris’ face had drained of all color when I gave him the news, eyes glossed over like he was looking at a stranger. I’d tried calling and texting him several times since arriving back home, but it was very obvious that he was ghosting me.
My parents and my older brother took the news surprisingly well. Papa seemed genuinely delighted that he was going to be a grandfather, and Mom was always supportive of me. Max’s reaction was the one I was worried about the most. I loved my big brother to death, but sometimes he could be overprotective to the point of smothering. I’d taken him out to lunch at his favorite Italian restaurant, thoroughly believing that it wasn’t right to tell him via text or phone. I wanted to tell him in person and in a public place, mostly because I didn’t want him to misunderstand or make a big scene.
Max got really quiet after I told him. Scary quiet. If I hadn’t known better, I could have sworn something in his brain had fried. He stared at me blankly for a good ten minutes before he finally stood up, walked around the table, and gave me a big hug. The only time he got truly upset was when I told him that Chris wouldn’t be sticking around. He’d cursed him out, swore that if he ever lay eyes on him that Max would beat the guy to death. Max was almost double Chris’ size, so his threat was more than just empty words. It took me almost an hour and three appetizers before he finally calmed down enough to think logically.
The decision to drop out of college was my own. I’d just completed my first year of journalism, but I knew I couldn’t have a child and go to school at the exact same time. It’d be too much work, and I’d be far too distracted to be effective as both a student and a mother. The option of giving the child up had come up in conversation on several occasions, but it didn’t sit right with me. This was my baby, growing a little bigger every day. I’d grown surprisingly attached in just a matter of weeks, and the thought of abandoning my child either through adoption or other means left a bitter taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I would never judge a woman for the decision she chose to make. It was just that in this instance, I believed keeping the baby was right for me. It was my body, my life, my choice.
The last-minute scramble to find an apartment had been a hectic one. I’d been living with Chris off-campus, and the fact that we’d left our relationship dangling on a fight had me feeling less than welcome. I packed up my things and immediately called Max for help. Ever my hero, he managed to get me in contact with a landlord who was renting a one-bedroom apartment downtown at a very reasonable price. Max even told me not to worry about hiring movers, as he’d recruited the help of an old friend. What I didn’t expect was that old friend to be Joseph Mantaglio, the man who was arguably my first love.