I’ve been pondering the meaning of romance lately, mostly when the house is quiet except for Grandpa’s subtle snoring. As a young girl, it was the media that gave impression of romance and embedded it into my heart. Now though, as I listen to the yearning within my own, I know I just want him to come back to me, to pick me instead. We could get our own place with barely any room to walk, but it wouldn’t matter because we’d barely have the finances to buy furniture. We’d be dead tired from working dead end jobs, and attending our classes, but it’d be a good tired, the kind that makes your soul feel good, and well-spent.
There would be this baby to bring light to our days, and the bittersweet hope that one day it would get easier, but that sometimes working hard for something is what makes it taste all the better.
I click my pen, and open my notebook. I’ve started writing a letter to Isaac, but hadn’t gotten farther than Dear Isaac. I spend my days writing to him in my head, but when I sit here the beginning evades me. “Sometimes I hate you,” it comes out through clenched teeth, but I dare not write that. My shoulders slouch forward, and I sigh, “Mostly I still love you.”
I put my pen on the second line, ink puddling around the tip, as I try and force out the words. “This baby is a part of you, and it breaks my heart that you don’t care.” I write it hastily before the words leave me, and then stare at them. Breaks my heart, I stare at that line, it feels like something a teenager would say. I may be one, but shouldn’t I be rising above that for this situation? I hate myself for still caring, I want to be like Hadley, and be able to steal my heart against those that don’t deserve my affection, but I can’t. Every single time he passes me in the hall with Lauren, it makes my stomach tighten, and my heart race.
I check the clock on the stove, nearly three in the morning. I haven’t seen him walk in front of the house to see Lauren lately, now that school is out, and in utter weakness, I call him. I tell myself that I have to try at least one more time. I have this phone number from Kenzie that is burning a hole in my pocket, this family would want my baby, she says. I can’t just do that though, I need to know about Isaac first, I need to know if the romantic life I envision is possible. I need to try one more time, this baby deserves that.
In the silence of my house, the phone ringing in my ear feels like a bullhorn, loud and exposing. I nearly hang up, when he answers in his gruff voice. My own words catch, and I nearly cry when he says my name questioningly, but not rudely.
“I need to see you,” my voice is shaky and low.
He’s quiet, I can hear his breathing, and then his sigh. It’s the sound he makes when his Mom tells him to take care of his brother Ezra or take out the trash. I push the phone closer to my ear to catch any words he might say, terrified I’ll miss what he says. He sighs heavily, “Alright.”
My stomach leaps within me, and my breath catches, but just as quickly I begin to doubt what he means by it. “Does that mean you will, come over that is, now?”
He’s quiet again, I wonder if he’s listening to his house to hear any signs that his parents or little brother are awake, “Yeah.” And then he hangs up.
Quickly I stand, the top of my belly hits the lip on the table, and stings. I rub it, as I try to think what to do while I wait. He lives just a few houses down, it won’t take him long to arrive. Should I stand outside? Should I wait by the window for him? I decide to step outside, just in case Grandma wakes up to use the restroom.
It’s chilly, and I wish I had a coat to cover up with, I don’t dare retreat to my room for one though. Hadley isn’t a light sleeper, and if she gets suspicious, she’d come down here. I feel sick to think of what Hadley would do if she found Isaac on our porch, and I need this meeting to go without Hadley interfering.
The crickets are playing their melody, and I can hear the low electrical buzz of the neighbors bug zapper across the street. Somewhere in the distance there’s a car that starts, but otherwise it’s just the wind, not even the birds are singing yet. It’s just moments later that I can hear his sneakers crunch on the loose gravel.
Our trash can is down again, Hadley keeps saying that it’s one of her nemesis that’s doing it, but we both know it’s probably Isaac or Lauren. Dad will fix it in the morning without a word, in a vain hope that I haven’t seen it, and I’ll pretend for him that I haven’t.
I see him crossing the street under the light, and I want to slip back inside the house, and take back calling him.
When he steps in front of my house, I swallow hard, he looks the same as he always has, but he’s not mine anymore. He’s with Lauren now, and I’m embarrassed. I imagine that he will tell her about this late night phone call, and then they’ll laugh about me, and make jokes at my expense. Lauren’s sleeping in the house just kitty corner of me, if she were to get up and look outside her bedroom window, she’d see us. Anxiously, I check her house, but no lights are on.
“You’ve gotten fatter.” He says as he walks up the stone path to the house. I bite my lip to keep tears from betraying me. “I’m not being mean. My Mom got big with Ezra then lost it all.” I just stare at him, uncertain what I should say. He inhales sharply a few times as if he has something he wants to say, and I hold my breath, angry at myself for the little pieces of hope I feel inside. “Can I… come up there?”
I only nod.
“Shit,” he says it under his breath as he takes me in up close now. “Do you know what it is?” I shake my head. “Sorry about my folks. It was shady not being honest, I just couldn’t face it, you get it though.”
It doesn’t sound like a genuine apology, and I can feel anger building, but I try to extinguish it. “I didn’t really have that choice, to lie and hide it from my parents.”
“I know,” he rubs his hands nervously, “Sorry, about,” he chuckles awkwardly, “well, all of this.” He motions toward my stomach, and I feel a strange feeling of protectiveness.
“Don’t talk like that, the baby can hear you.” I bring my arms around my stomach like one might cover a child’s eyes from a scary scene in a movie.
He looks up at me surprised, and then laughs again. “Even if it can hear, it doesn’t understand, besides,” his voice changes, and he’s agitated now, his brow furrowing. “Besides, all this was a mistake, you can’t even tell me you think it wasn’t.” He taps his foot, and is watching me, waiting for my response.
The question takes me off guard, no one has asked me how I felt about it, and now that I’ve been asked, I’m not sure how I feel. The correct response would be that it wasn’t good timing, but that human life is never a mistake. Maybe I feel that way too, how many times had I wished I were older, even if it were just a few years, and I was a senior in high school. That would make a world of difference.
“I don’t know,” I finally answer him. His face contorts, and he crosses his arms, just waiting to pounce on whatever I have to say next. It wouldn’t even matter at this point, he’ll be angry regardless. I just want him to understand though, and I try to gather courage to press forward. “I just… I just don’t’ think it works that way. Right or wrong, good or bad.” I stutter, but begin to gain momentum, and desperately want to defend my baby to him as much as I want him to understand. “It’s not great timing, that’s all been wrong, but I can’t say that this baby, this human is a mistake. I just don’t think it works that way. I feel it move, and it feels like I’m a part of this miracle, as much as everything about this is horrible, the baby isn’t. Not really. It’s just circumstance. It’s just me, not being ready.” And in my head I add that it’s just you being the father, but I don’t dare say it.
“So what then, you planing to keep this miracle,” his voice is mocking, and stings like a slap to the face. “Raise it on your own? Cause I ain’t playing no house with you, you can forget that fairy tale. I can’t believe you’ve run with this shit as long as you have anyway, playing the poor knocked up teen part like a freaking movie star. I ain’t sticking around Jules, I’m off to Eastborough in the fall, and you can bet I’m not shackling myself to a sophomore and some ‘miracle’.”
I want to say something rude back to him, but my mind is blank, except for childish things that Simon says, like “na-uh, or you’re glue and I’m rubber“, and I just want to cry because those don’t even make sense for this situation, and I wish like hell I could be in a kid like Simon. “I don’t know what I’m doing yet.”
He gives me a last, hard look, and I think somewhere behind those cold blue eyes, there’s a softness in there for me. But he doesn’t show it, “Fuck it.” He turns on his heel and stomps off. “Fuck you and your man trapping ways Julia!” I can hear him muttering and cursing under his breath as he leaves my front yard, and then it’s just his shoes, slowly fading in the distance.
Inside of me, it felt like everything I ever was or would be, was crumpling in like a ruined piece of paper. It took all my strength to not curl into a ball on the spot. In this moment, all I want is to be anyone, or anything else, or even be nothing at all.
I stumble to one of the porch chairs and fall back into it, it’s cushion is stiff from the chill, and I can feel the cold through my thin pajama pants. I had vainly thought that I’d lost all hope for Isaac, of him being decent, or caring for me and the baby, but I was wrong. There still had been a flame of hope inside me, despite everything, and I just couldn’t let it go, I had to keep trying like some stupid girl that no one liked, but still showed up to play. It really was just me in this, he had avoided everything, and sometimes I really did hate him, or maybe I just hated me.
Notes: Poll on the upper right to share your opinion on what Julia will do, closes Thursday.
You may remember that this was a Freshman/Senior relationship, so this fall Isaac will be at Eastborough, and Julia will be a sophomore in High School. Plans for Isaac right now are at a zero, there’s no room at the dorm that Meg, Oliver, and Isaiah (Isaac’s big brother) are staying at, so I don’t know how much we will see him. (Hopefully not much!).
I decided to split this so that it didn’t get too lengthy, so part 2 will be up on Wednesday/Thursday. I still need to write it up.
Thanks for reading!