Each tick of the clock echoed in the room, it was just me and the passing of time, waiting. I’d came here this morning quickly after Ella left on the school bus, I had thought there was plenty of time before Cesar’s lunch break at work. His break started three minutes ago. I already sent him a text to delay, and that I was running late. I didn’t respond when he had text back asking why.
What was there to say? Nothing yet. It was just me alone, my thoughts tormenting me and replaying horrors of my past. I’d never done a monogamous relationship before, it was Cesar’s rule in the beginning. He thought we had gone two years strong this past April. We hadn’t. I cheated to pass English, Science, even Math. Some students had at least one class they were good at, I didn’t have any. And I cheated on Cesar with the bartender.
I swallowed, attempting to push the guilt down. At the end of the day Cesar was good, his parents were church-goers. My dad was an alcoholic, my mom left us. We were the poor family that the good people looked down on, and I was the girl that rich kids mocked. Hallmark made movies about my type of family, so the rich people would feel a good ounce of pity, and feel like they’d done their part in the world.
Sometimes you know the answer to your fear before anyone has time to confirm it.
She had a smile, that meant she brought good news. Little did she know that my idea of good news was negative.
I was stoic as she made her way around the desk, apologizing for the long delay, telling me she had good news. Good news for me would be the cash to pay for rent, and buy Ella an outfit that wasn’t from the thrift store.
I can’t hide my emotions as well as I used to, and she judges me.
I can see it on her face. She’s disappointed that another life has been created to an unloving, undeserving mother.
I don’t hate her for it, I pity this unborn child as much as I pity Ella for being stuck with me.
When I arrive twenty minutes past noon I spot Cesar outside talking with his Mother. He looks excited and I’d guess he’d just sold a car. His Mother doesn’t like me, she’s never been rude, but I can just tell. I don’t have that church-glow to me, I have an illegitimate child, and soon I’ll have another, little did she know.
We exchange pleasantries, because Maria doesn’t have a rude bone in here, and then we are off. Cesar is thrilled, he sold a car for a large profit, and can’t stop waving his arms around in excitement. When we arrive at Shortstack it’s packed with the lunch crowd.
I had to tell Matt about having Ella, and it resulted in lies, and empty promises. I feel nauseous at the idea of telling Cesar, I finish my water right as the waitress sets it down, and she gives me a puzzled look when she walks by to find it empty a moment later.
I wasn’t afraid that he would respond badly as Matt had. I was terrified he’d be happy, maybe not thrilled at first, but eventually, he would be. He would be the kind of Dad to be excited, and buy little teddy bears. I knew he would, because he was great with Ella, and he had bought her a teddy bear when he first met her.
After our food was delivered and the waitress stopped hovering while we inspected our food, I just told him. Simply that I’d been at the doctors, had my blood drawn, and that we were most definitely having a baby.
He was surprised, probably because he uses protection. But he knows as well as me that it’s not fool proof, and he didn’t say anything negative. I didn’t expect him too.
What he did say was that we should get married. He said it like it was the next logical step, like it wasn’t odd or a big commitment or even a big deal.
I sputter that I’m not marriage material, that he doesn’t want to marry me, and he gives me that look.
I know the look, it’s the look that good people get when they watch Hallmark. Poor broken Annie, it says, she’s really screwed up. I hurt his feelings though, turning down the proposition of marriage.
And now I feel bad. I try to explain the differences of good people, and me, but he doesn’t look any better.
He doesn’t talk much after that, and when I drop him off at work, his shoulders are slumped. I just took what could’ve been a joyous day and ruined it. He sold a car, found out he was going to be a father, and quite possibly could have been engaged, and I squashed it. He looks like a boy whose new toy has been destroyed, and it’s all my fault.
I get set up some appointments with Kenzie to see if I qualify for any type of aid. I only make $150 doing the Horoscope Hotline, it’s not enough, and my place is too small for another person.
I’m just poor enough, that I qualify for one of the rundown houses in South Port. I still have a piece of the loan to pay, but half of it has been covered by people’s donations to help the poor.
It’s a dump. We lived in Millwood in a decent duplex, by beautiful parks, and now Ella would live in the city. If she didn’t know she was poor before now, she will today.
It takes a few trips in my car, and paying a guy at work fifty bucks to use his truck, to get our stuff moved in. We filled the duplex out alright, but this house is empty with our belongings.
Ella loves the new house, it has three stories, and three bedrooms. Her favorite part is the pile of sand in the backyard, I’m afraid neighborhood cats might’ve defecated it, but I couldn’t find anything when I’d looked.
She likes the park being next door, it’s run down, and always filled with guys shooting hoops. She misses Cesar, I haven’t called him, he hasn’t called me. I don’t know if we are still together or if we broke up, I can’t tell from replaying the conversation. But as more time passes, it feels more like a break up.
The guys take pity on her, a kid without a Dad isn’t abnormal in this side of town. They all shout out greetings to her when they walk by to the court, and they’ll even push her on the merry-go-round too.
I just have to walk through the alley to get to the park to find her. She seems like a favorite among the crowd.
I appreciate the guys, but hate when they try talking to me. I’m not on the market, or maybe I am. I don’t know, but I’m not interested in relationships.
I work the night shift, and still have Charity come to watch Ella. I’d like a better shift, but there aren’t openings in my department. We eat macaroni and cheese quick before I head out for the night.
Ella’s been whining a lot. She hates doing her homework, and when I get in at 2am, Charity always tells me that she put up a fight once again. I was awful at school, and I can’t help but feel bad that Ella is too. It’d be easier if she was gifted, or maybe it’d just be a bigger disappointment. It happens all the time, a great kid has potential, but lacks opportunity.
I only see Ella a few hours each day, and she always has stories to tell me about a little boy named Alex who is grumpy and no one likes. I hope she doesn’t grow up trying to fix men, it’s a sad, lonely road.
During the day it’s just me in the big empty house that I can’t afford to furnish properly. There’s a third bedroom, but I don’t have the money for crib. I traded it all in at the thrift store when Ella needed a bigger bed.
When my doorbell rang I figured it was solicitors, we get them a lot over here. Most are selling insurance or services, but it was Cesar with a bag of groceries. I hadn’t told him I’d moved or to where. It’d all happened so quickly, and I’d jumped on the house before some other poor and needy family could.
He looks beaten down and broken, and I know that I did this. There’s an attempt to have this seem ok to him, so he forces this little lift to the corner of his mouth as he hands me the bag, “Thought you could use these things.”
I take the bag and start walking to the kitchen. I look inside to find bread, a flashlight, coffee. He’s right, I don’t have a flashlight, a good mother would have those things. They’d be prepared for cuts, fevers, and power outages.
I pull the coffee out questioningly, and he blushes a little.
“Coffee has got to be better for the baby than beer.” He sort of shrugs like he doesn’t really care if I drink to my death, but we both know he does, at least I hope so.
“I don’t like the taste.”
“Maybe you could try, just to see again. Taste changes as we get older.”
I just shrug, afraid to look him in the eye, scared to see what I’d find. I move to put the coffee in the fridge, he fumbles with his hands, then settles on crossing them over his chest.
I watch from the corner of my eye as I continue to unpack the contents of the bag. I know he has something specific on his mind, but he keeps skirting it, and I don’t want to press. I’m not sure I’m ready to answer any questions he has, or hear any big speech if he has one.
“I don’t have a coffee maker.” I say simply to break the heavy silence.
He’s taking in my house, looking at the living room, then setting his eyes on my counter covered in bottles. That and my comment sets him off.
“Why can’t you just let me in” he begins in a controlled, pleading outburst. “I’m not like him, you know this!”
He walks to the couch and slumps down, he looks like my Dad when he found my Mother’s note. I hate my father, I swore as a child he drove my Mother away, but I know it was her in the end. She was awful, and here I was being the same. After not seeing her for more than twenty years, I still grew up to be my mother.
“I want to be good.” I whisper, “I’m just.. not. I do stupid things all the time, and even though I fight being like my parents, I swear it’s all I see when I look in the mirror. I’d love to share the responsibility of screwing up Ella and this new baby, but I can’t handle the thought of bringing you into my misery. I just can’t be more than what I am.” I slump my shoulders, these were the things I hid in my soul, things I knew to be true of myself, but didn’t want anyone else to see.
He startles me by standing up, but he doesn’t move towards me. “We don’t have to get married Annie. I would, but we can just do it your way if you want, for now.”
“It’s not fair.” I mumble, looking at my scuffed kitchen floor, “Ella deserves a Dad who loves her and anticipated her arrival. It’s not right that she got him, and this,” my hand hovered at my waist a moment before I dropped it quickly, “this one has you.”
He quickly filled the space between us, and wrapped his arms on me, his face contorted in a desperate plea. “I love her, Annie, like my own daughter. Screw Matt, please let us try, let me be like a father to Ella too.”
There’s this empty space in my heart, a place where these are the magic words that I desperately hope are true. Cause at the end of the day, I know that my best isn’t good enough for Ella. But with Cesar, maybe it could be.
Notes: Miss Annie got herself a risky woohoo (despite Cesar having bc), this happened quite a while ago, back when Miriam got pregnant! Remember when I was redoing my terrain, I kept popping into households, and kept coming out with pregnancies, well this was one of them. It wasn’t Annie’s turn in the rotation and I wanted time to decide what Annie would do and want in this situation.
Annie is due in January 2018. Cesar rolled the engagement want immediately, but Annie doesn’t rush to do society-driven things, and isn’t quite ready to jump into matrimony. If she decides to she will be decently well-off. Cesar’s dad owns Juan’s Dealership which consists of two auto lots, a nice one (which Juan runs himself), and a more economical one (which Cesar runs).