What a day. I started by setting the kitchen on fire. I woke up starving–I guess playing the closet game so hard with Paolo can do that.
Maybe I should’ve waited for Berry to make breakfast, since I was too hungry to concentrate. But it was just scrambled eggs! Who starts a kitchen fire scrambling eggs? I guess I do.
We put it out. Beryl’s awesome with a fire extinguisher.
“Man,” she said after the smoke subsided. “We girls rock.”
Lucky Charms never smelled so good. Before I finished my cereal, Paolo called.
“Let me take you someplace special, my little foreign delight,” he said.
I was so surprised when I showed up at the address he gave me, and it was a sexual and reproductive health clinic in a neighboring town.
“I know our adventure had you worried with fear and concern,” he said. We went inside and took the tests, both of us. I was sort of touched, and sort of freaked out. We both came out clean–nothing to worry about. Except, his other partners. I tried not to think about that.
“Oh, it is nothing,” he said afterwards. “This is a regular club activity. We come here every month or sooner. Make sure everything is hunkey-dokey.”
For a split-second, I felt relieved. Then I thought about all his partners’ partners, and their partners, and their partners’ partners. I doubt that all of Windenburg gets tested every month.
I decided to stuff my worries–at least for the moment. When I’d reviewed my history, I realized that last night had been my first time unprotected ever. Ever. And I liked it. It was thrilling, really. I loved closing my eyes and imagining those microscopic tadpoles racing towards the sea anemone. Here’s to the fastest and strongest! And then, when it gets there, the sea anemone wraps her tentacles around it and closes in upon it. It’s all so oceanic! And to think that that was what it all led up to–I just found it thrilling.
Before we left the clinic, I got a text message from Marcus, saying the club was meeting, so we went directly there.
I was still drawn in by the thrill.
“Remember!” said Marcus, glaring at us. “We are all about sharing.”
But Paolo and I didn’t even register what he said.
“Closet?” I whispered.
“Race you there, my little Maserati!” said Paolo.
“I did not bring the protection for us,” said Paolo.
“Good,” I said. “We both got clean tests, right?” And we fell into the closet.
We must have made noise. OK. I know we did. The doors were shaking–and that’s not even mentioning the half of it.
Jade and some woman I’d never met were standing there smiling when we came out. So much for not having a reputation in this new city.
I didn’t care. It was just too wonderful. Paolo! Man! Paolo running free! I loved the feeling. I didn’t care who knew.
This next test I took came out positive. And this positive result thrills me. It still does.
What a surprise my feelings are! I am so happy. Is this what I wanted all along? Is this what all that riskiness was about?
I went down to tell Paolo. How would he take it? It’s not like I knew him well enough to predict his response.
I didn’t know what words to use, so I just blurted it out.
I had no idea how he would respond.
While I was waiting for a response–any response–I realized I was ready for anything. I could handle this.
I’m having this baby. I don’t care if he tries to persuade me not to. I don’t care if he freaks out and runs. I really don’t care about him all that much actually–I mean, I don’t even know him well enough to care. But I care fiercely and ferociously about this baby. This baby is coming into this world, and I’m the mother.
He just looked at me. I can’t read his face yet. I don’t know him well enough. Was that disdain? Anger? Fear? Resentment? Bluffing?
He burst out laughing–genuine, positive, “life is great” laughter. He clapped. He actually applauded the news.
I guess he’s not upset.
Then I got worried. Oh, God. What if he proposes? What if he asks me to be his girlfriend? What if he expects to move in?
I mean, he’s the father. He can definitely be part of his child’s life, of course. And maybe I’ll even want to keep playing closet games with him now and then–with protection, of course. But I’m not anybody’s girlfriend, and I’m sure as heck not anybody’s wife.
I decided to let him know right then, right there. I just didn’t want him to have any expectations or feel under any kind of obligation.
His smile got even bigger.
“You see?” he said. “I knew we were the match made in the heaven! It’s the unmatch match, my little foreign darling. I want to no such conniptions as you describe. We are the two hearts of the same half.”
Walking home, I felt that everyone knew I was pregnant with Paolo Rocca’s baby. And I didn’t care. I won’t be his wife. I’m sure not his girlfriend. But I am happy for the world to know that I am the mother of his baby.
I really thought before we moved here that it would never happen. How could it? I’ve always known I didn’t want to marry. Four years–that’s max for me for a relationship, and even that nearly sucked the soul out of me. I’d given up on the whole idea. But Paolo–he’s changed that. I’ve got it all! I’ve got a baby, without having to be somebody’s wife!
Beryl was out for a walk when I got home. I saw her when she returned. She was standing at the edge of our yard, facing the setting sun. Oh, Berry! I could hardly wait to tell her!
She didn’t say what some sisters might say. She didn’t ask who was the dad or how did it happen so soon, or how did I even have a chance to make a baby when we’d only been here two days.
She just took me in her arms and whispered, “Oh, Mae! You know I’ve always wanted to be an aunt. Thank you.”
She was still saying thank you to the moon and the stars when my hormones did a flip and sent my stomach reeling.
The hormones are really kind of a trip. One moment I’m cracking up at cartoons on TV.
The next moment, I’m freaking out about not having health insurance. Then, I’m remembering Mom and Dad aren’t around, and the baby won’t know its grandparents. Then, I’m feeling worry and doubt.
But I love it. If I just watch it, it’s like a weird internal amusement park–the merry go-round with cotton candy, the roller coaster with hot dogs and mustard, the Ferris wheel with popcorn. Ugh, crap. Why did I have to write about food?
And now, I’m starving again! It really is a trip.
I told Beryl I was worried about not having health insurance.
“I’m taking this seriously, Berry,” I said. “I’m not young. I may not yet be high-risk, but I’m not low-risk, either. I need prenatal care, and we can’t afford it. I’m not even sure we can pay our bills next month.”
Beryl told me about this program. It’s for heterosexual couples, really–in fact, creepily enough, most of them are matched by the government. (Forgive me while I gross out for a minute.) But they take care of everything. You’ve just got to make sure your kid’s given every chance to excel. Which, of course, Beryl and I would do. It goes without saying.
“Look,” she said, “You’ve got a perfect trump card. It’s called equity. It’s just not equitable for only couples to qualify, right? An aunt and a mom should be just as viable as a dad and a mom, right?”
She had a really good point.
“If anybody can persuade them,” she said, “you can. I know your legal mind. You can persuade anybody of anything–especially when you’ve got fairness on your side.”
I applied that night. I wrote a logical, well-supported letter, citing precedence, policy, and law. We haven’t heard back yet, but I’m hopeful. If we get accepted, I can rest easy. We’ll have the best prenatal care available, free of charge.
I also sent an email message to Marcus, Eva, Jade, and Paolo.
I quit the club.
I’m going to be a mom. I’m not some young kid who can run around doing foolish unprotected things with any old unprotected fool. I’ve responsibilities now for all of us living under our sweet little roof. I am going to be a mom.