Okay, I’m pregnant, and so here’s what I’m scared about. What if my kid turns out to be a mass murderer? You know, one of those kids who shoots half the school, then shoots himself? Or maybe a drug dealer, or really, just—just what if my kid lies to me, or sneaks out a window to go see her boyfriend, or gets pregnant at sixteen like me? I’d hate to have me for a kid.
I waited until I was five months pregnant to tell my parents. I guess I had sort of hoped the whole thing would go away. At first I thought maybe I wasn’t pregnant, and I just tried to ignore the signs, like painful boobs and feeling sick all the time and, oh, yeah, a missing period or two. But then once I figured out that yes, I am pregnant, I thought that I would probably miscarry, because in those first weeks I had been drinking V-O’s (vodka and OJ) and smoking my Camels, which, okay, I realize now was a bad idea. But like I said, I didn’t know for sure I was pregnant, and I figured the baby wouldn’t live, because my mother miscarried three times before she had my older sister and twice before she had me. My sister has already miscarried twice, and she’s been trying to get pregnant with her husband for four years. It figures: my baby is alive and kicking.
I hate doctors. The whole reason I didn’t have an abortion, besides the fact that I didn’t believe I needed one because I figured I’d miscarry, is because I hate, hate, hate doctors. And, okay, my parents would more likely kill me if I had had an abortion than if I were just pregnant, because that’s very against their religion. So now I’ve got to somehow get this baby out of me, and from what I’ve seen in health class and in the movies, I’m in for a night or two of complete and utter torture!
When I told my dad that I was pregnant, he stormed through the house yelling at me loud enough for the whole state of Maine and part of Canada to hear. Then when he finally calmed down enough to talk to me in one place, the cozy farmhouse kitchen of our cozy, most favorite house in the world, he stood in front of me with his fists on his hips, his graying hair standing up on end from raking his fingers through it while he raged—maybe pulling it some, too—and he smiled at me. It wasn’t this friendly, “I love you, anyway,” kind of smile. It was this victorious, self-satisfied smile, like he’d just pulled a fast one on me.
“Well, well, well,” he said, still smiling. “I guess it’s payback time. All the times you snuck out of this house and ran away with Lam and worried your mother and me—payback. All the times you lied to us, came home drunk and way past curfew—payback. You like staying up all hours of the night? You’re in luck. Your baby will keep you up whether you like it or not. And all the griping and complaining you did in Africa, making everyone miserable, the rude and nasty things you’ve said to us—”
“I know, I know,” I said. “Payback. I get it, I get it.” And I do, which is why I’m so scared about this baby. I don’t want me for a kid. I really, really don’t. Worse, I don’t want my boyfriend for a kid. Hell, I’m not sure I really even want him for a husband, but my parents and his parents kind of pushed me into it, so what can I do?
I tried to get a little sympathy. “I know I messed up again, Daddy, but can’t you at least say something nice? Are you just going to lay curses on me every day for the rest of my life? Won’t you feel sorry if you’ve cursed this baby?”
“Hah!” Dad threw back his head and grabbed at his hair again. He looked a little wild—crazy wild. “Eleanor, you’ve cursed your own baby by getting pregnant. You’re only sixteen! What kind of life can it possibly have? You’ve got a C average at best in school, so what kind of job do you think you’ll get? And that punk-o boyfriend of yours isn’t any better.” Then back to that ugly smile of his. “But you’ve made your bed, and you’re going to lie in it. We’ve always done right by you and your sister. She turned out beautifully, and she got everything you got, and you were treated exactly the same, so I don’t blame myself for any of this.”
“Well, neither do I, Dad, if that’s what’s got you so steamed. I was just born wrong, I guess.” I felt tears stinging my eyes. “I’m a total loser.” I rubbed my belly. “And this baby’s going to be a total loser, too, because it’s going to have such losers for parents. But thanks for all your love and caring sympathy, Dad. I knew I could count on you.” I ran out of the kitchen, hoping my dad would call me back, hug me, say everything’s going to be all right, he’d take care of everything, save me from my fool self, but he didn’t.
My mom’s reaction wasn’t much better. I know, I know; I should have told them both at the same time, but I was afraid of the way they would gang up on me—two voices shouting and ranting, the two of them feeding off of each other’s anger. To tell the truth, there is no good way to tell your parents that you got knocked up.
Mom’s big deal was to find out who did this to me. That’s what she said right off the bat. “Who did this to you?” As if he’d splattered mud on my shirt or something. She was setting the table in the dining room, not even looking at me, not even pausing to digest what I’d told her. She just set the plates down one by one, carefully, gently, as if the plates were my baby, its fragile skull cradled in her hands. My mom’s calm reaction hurt as much as my father’s rage, maybe even more. I knew she had grown used to my terrible surprises, maybe even bored with them. Two times in juvie for stupid stuff like breaking and entering—my boyfriend’s house—and stealing a car, my parents’ car. All the drinking and drugs, sneaking out, and running away—it’s been too much for her, so now she’s just bored. She’s so bored she doesn’t even care anymore. I think she’s so done with worrying about me, she’s just cut me loose. She couldn’t even bother to look at me. Not once. And she didn’t once say anything about this being a sin. It used to be I got the sin word slapped in my face every time I did something wrong, but come on, when you live in a sin-free family with sin-free parents and a sin-free sister, well, you can’t help but sin a little extra on their behalf.
Mom just kept setting the table—knife and spoon on the right, fork on the left, carefully folded napkins, those tidy triangles of hers, placed under the fork. “Who did this to you?” she asked, and I told her.
“Thanks a lot, Mom!” I said. “Who do you think? Lam Lothrop, who else? I mean, come on, Mom, what do you take me for?”
Lam’s real name is Lamont, which is why he goes by Lam. Mom didn’t even raise an eyebrow or indicate in any way that she’d heard his name. She poured ice water in the glasses from a 1950s pitcher she found in the cabinet under the sink one day and had used every day since. She loved that pitcher, with its bands of orange and yellow painted on it, more than me. That’s what I thought, watching her: She loves it more than she’s ever loved me.
Mom and Dad didn’t say a word during dinner. The only sound was the clink and scrape of our forks and knives, the heavy swallowing of our food and ice water with lemon. I couldn’t eat ...