“Surprise, Surprise. Promises, Promises.”
Right now, I should be in the middle of Botany, confused out of my mind, instead Kim is and jotting notes for the two of us. I wait with Alexis at the airport for Derek.
I can’t believe we’re still together. All day I’ve felt like I’m in daze. Maybe, I’m in a coma and Derek isn’t coming in real life, just in my dreamscape… Then again, if I was dreaming I sure as heck wouldn’t be pregnant with the Jerk’s child, it would be Derek’s baby.
Alexis flips through a celebrity gossip magazine she has with her as I just sit rubbing my baby bump. I feel like the baby finds it soothing, but I do it mostly because it makes me feel calm.
“Poor Gina…” Alexis sighs referring to the famous Broadway Starlet.
“I don’t think she’s that bad off… I think it’s good she asked for help after a mental breakdown… That takes courage.” I say.
“Oh I agree, but the media just won’t stop talking about it. She doesn’t owe the public any explanations. She has every right to keep her life private.” Holding up the article about Gina, “They interviewed a friend of a friend of her cousin about her breakdown… the person wasn’t even there when it happened.”
“But yet, you’re reading the GUIDE TO THE STARS and supporting their exploitation of celebrities.”
Defensively, Alexis says, “I didn’t buy this, a co-worker gave it to me. I don’t buy stuff like this.”
I just let silence make things awkward between us. I scroll through my social media, which I haven’t done in a while, and notice about 75 comments on my post announcing my pregnancy. A lot of love from people with some drama from people who say I’m trapped in poverty now. I wonder how people would react if I confessed I would have rather aborted my baby… And the weird part is, it’s not because I don’t love my baby, but every night when I go to sleep I’m reminded of what that monster did. In my sleep, I’m haunted by what he did to me, some nights I can’t stay asleep. What will it be like, when the baby is here?
“I thought you both would be more excited to see me…” I hear Derek say as I sense his presence approach me.
I leap up as fast as I can and I spring into his reaching arms for me. I hug him tightly like my life depends on holding onto him. He smells a lot different. Instead of teenage male body spray that borderline mimics the fragrance of teenage girl body spray, he smells like he wears a grown man’s cologne.
Marveling at how his man mane is gone and he now sports a crew cut fade, I just stare at him. He even stands up straight with a posture like a soldier and his biceps actually have some muscle tone. He sort of reminds me of the jerk, I hate it more than I love it, but I love him.
I go to kiss him on the lips and he turns his head and makes me kiss his cheek. He takes my hand and intertwines our fingers. Then he gives me a soft peck on the back of a held hand.
“I missed you so much baby!” Derek says rubbing the back of my hand.
Did we enter the Twilight Zone and cross over into the 50s of America… How come he won’t kiss me like a normal teenage boy? If this has to do with Jesus, I’m gonna curse and I don’t swear.
Without asking, he cups the outside of my womb. The baby does move and then he retracts his hand a little freaked out.
“That feels weird…” He retorts.
“Imagine how it feels for me.” I say.
Alexis stands looking at us. I’m curious why we’re not leaving. I watch Derek give his mother a look and she slightly tilts her head forward, giving him a similar look back. Derek lets go of my hand and reaches into his blue, straight jean pants. I still can get over how he’s dressed. His red T-shirt is tucked in and he’s wearing a belt. Out his pocket, he holds a red ring box in his hand. As she opens the box as he gets down on one knee.
What is happening right now?! Is he proposing and Alexis knew about this? OMG, why is he proposing? Can we even get married? We’re teenagers!
“Savannah Lorene Moneymaker, will you marry me?”
Everyone in the waiting area stares at us, waiting to see what I’m going to do. If I say yes, and we get married, financially it will be a little easier, won’t it? Or will I get more money from the state being single? I really need to look into that… I know I want to marry Derek one day. I cannot picture my life without him. I don’t want to live life without him…
“Yes… I’ll marry you…” I say crying. I don’t like that I’m in tears, but I can’t help it.
He gently slides the modest diamond ring onto the proper finger and stands up to embrace me. He kisses me on the forehead and he shouts excitedly that I said yes. The crowd happily applauds for us.
This is definitely a surprise.
“Light and Dark Don’t Mix, Spiritually”
Kaylie’s silence worries me. I thought she would be happy for me and Derek. I hold my hand out so she can look at the ring, but she ignores it as she gets off her bed and crosses over to her closet on the other side. She slides her shutter closet doors open and the upper half of her body disappear behind a wall of her hanging clothes. She backs up and turns around holding a worn out shoe box. She comes back and sits down up against her cherry wood headboard. She pulls the lid off and the inside is cluttered with note cards, flooded pieces of paper, and pictures- polaroid pics, 4 x 6s, and a few wallet size pics too. Before she opens her mouth I know its her Trevor Box… I have an ALL-THINGS-DEREK-BOX too.
“Trevor will forever be my first love… but he’s not saved… he’s no good for me. Light and Dark don’t mix, and as hard as it was, I had to break it off with him for good.” Kaylie whines from her self-righteous soapbox.
I don’t need to hear this preachy stuff from her. I rock back for momentum and then I slowing roll off her bed. “You know,” I say, turning to put my tude in her direction. “I thought you would appreciate how Derek called my mom and got her blessing before he popped the question. That he secured a job through one of his dad’s friends before he came back. How Alexis and him are going to convert the garage into an apartment for us until we finish school… But no, your religion has to come before me… Moses wasn’t married to a Jew… she was from Media- not even his own kin. And Hosea married an unclean prostitute!” I pause for a second not sure why I brought the Bible into this… That’s what happens living with Netty and being forced to attend church twice a week. Plus, her and Dashuan talk about the Bible and their faith all the time at dinner- it consumes the conversation.
“I expected this from my sister, but not from you. And I don’t care if Jesus is a better friend to you than me right now… Knowing Him doesn’t give you license to tell people what to do with their life!” I yell.
Wow, I rarely yell, but hitting the 2nd trimester my emotions stay on high, in every single mode… And I can’t control it…
“It’s just I had a dream and I think it was about placing the baby in adoption…” She blurts.
“SO WHAT! I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care! I don’t have to follow God like you. I wish I could be as lucky as you and have this kid die in my WOMB!” And now I shut up.
Kaylie hangs her head as she trembles crying. Everything in me just wants to hold her and apologize until I really do die.
Not even looking at me, “Just get out…” Kaylie manages to say.
“The South Side-Again”
I like moving homes while being pregnant. I’m not really expected to do anything. Mom and I sit on the couch and we tell Bobby, Derek, the girls, and Bobby’s friends where to put things.
I guess Jewel and Bobby started talking right when she found out she was sick. He’s been seeing the girls every Sunday, since I moved back, and taking them to church. He no longer denies Genie is his. He can’t really, she looks like he spit her out.
The plan as of right now is that all of us live together until I marry Derek. Then I’ll go live with him and Alexis. Bobby has an extra truck that he’s letting Derek use, therefore, he can pick me up and take me to and from school.
I don’t remember a lot about Bobby, but I really hope living with him will be pleasant and as drama free as possible.
I’m an idiot. Roger, my case manager at school, advised me to take only one college course this spring. When have I ever listened to such sage advice? I signed up for three: Botany, Psychology, and Photography 1. The Psych and the Photography class were like made for me, but the Botany class happened to be other worldly… like info from another world with a language barrier I can’t crack!
Biology… why didn’t I take Biology? Well, for my third quarter in high school I’m taking it. Now, maybe taking high school and college Biology together would have enriching but at the time it seemed like getting put on a skewer and roasted over an open fire to me… In other words, just no. That wasn’t happening for me. I’m three weeks in, just past the point of the ability to drop the class without affecting my GPA and I’m in a sinking ship I need to make sure it gets to shore with a passing high C. If I flunk, I get my privileges to take college course for free revoked.
My two and half hour, twice a week class just ended and I’m frozen in my seat… looking over the notes I took during the lecture don’t have any fluidity page to page. I AM ON A SKEWER ROASTING OVER THE FLAMES OF HELL!
“Baby Brain got you bewildered too?” Kim asks standing next to me as I remain seated. She’s 28 weeks pregnant like me. We keep joking that our babies will be born on the same day. She’s half White and half Korean and her husband, Miguel, is half Mexican-American and half Japanese. She’s 36 and this is her fourth child. She’s been a stay at home mom, but not she’s going back to school to follow her passion and to become a teacher… She took Botany over Biology because she’s squeamish. I love the fact she pretends to be lost with me, but she totally understands this stuff more than me, and that’s why I sit next to her in class.
Pulling out her phone, Kim displays the latest 3D sonogram of her little one and hands me her phone so I can gawk over her growing miracle.
“Awe…” I say… Not really sure what to say.
“We finally decide on a name for her, it just came to us.”
“What is it?” I say handing the phone back to her. I close my notebook and pack up my things.
“Sonya Lucia Mary Soo Yun Tanaka… hopefully they count Soo Yun as one name or else we’ll be charged for a sixth name.”
Waddling out of class with Kim, I have to know, “Why so many names?”
“Well, my father is of Russian descendant and none of the other kids have a name to honor that… Then I’m really proud of my mother’s heritage. Of course, Miguel would die if we didn’t have a name that paid tribute to his family and Catholicism.”
That didn’t exactly explain why, but what more can I ask…
Right as we hit the parking lot, the gloomy rain clouds fulfill their purpose and release a steady rainfall. Kim whips open her hot pink umbrella with white pokadots and shares with me since all I got is Derek’s hoodie of his favorite baseball team.
“You’re not stuck taking the bus tonight are you?” Kim wonders with genuine concern in her voice.
“Yep, I’m bussing it.” I sigh.
“The last think you want to catch is the flu or a bug. I got the flu with Junior and it’s the worse illness you’ll ever experience. You want a lift home. You live on the east side right?”
“Um, I’ll take my chances… thanks though…” I sneak out of the covering of her umbrella. The cold, thick rain quickly drenching the hoodie
Locking elbows with me and reeling me back under the shelter of her umbrella, she makes it clear, “Oh nonsense. I live on the east too. I’ll take you home. Do you live on your own or with your boyfriend?”
“With my mom…”
“Your boyfriend isn’t in the picture anymore?”
We stop in front of a white SUV. “He’s in military…”
“I never pictured you to be the military man type?” Kim as she unlocks her vehicle. She walks me to the passenger door and makes sure I get inside.
Once she takes the driver seat, she tosses the umbrella in the back, that clearly looks like it belongs to young children. Two car seats sat in the back, food crumbs, a musty, moldy aroma, and toys of all kinds from actions figures and hot wheels to baby dolls and teddy bears.
Now would be good to clarify and spill the truth about me… but people assume a lot, and when I talk about my life, I just want to disappear…
“That’s sweet you’re staying with your mom while your man is away, will he be back in time of the birth?”
“Hopefully…” I say surprising myself. Do I have a clinical lying problem? Am I a pathological liar?
“You know what we should do together?”
“A mommy and me class when the babies are old enough, we could be Baby Buddies?” Kim says excitedly turning on the ignition.
“Can you explain something to me? If the war is over, why do we still send soldiers over there? And is your man a marine, an army man, an airman?”
“Um… I’m in high school. I get to take college courses for free. My boyfriend got shipped off to military school before I found out I was pregnant, and after I told him about the baby on FaceTime, we haven’t spoken since… I’m 16… I turned 16 two weeks ago.” The truth feels good to say.
We sit in a loud silence for a moment. The rain comes down harder. Finally, Kim speaks, “You’re so mature for your age! You could have fooled me the whole semester and I wouldn’t have known… If you want to fake being older the rest of the semester, I will totally go along with it.”
As she backs up erratically, she babbles on and on about how great Mommy-and-Me-Classes can be. We zip through the parking lot and through the rain way too fast for two pregnant women inside an SUV.
“Remembering Jewel is Mom”
Jewel made Saturday mandatory family day. We all get up by 9, we leave by 10, and go out to eat for breakfast. Then we go see a movie. After the movie we go to the park, if it is too cold, we go to the library. We go out for lunner (lunch/dinner). Then we spend the night playing board games as we over indulge with ice cream sundaes.
I barely remember this side of Jewel. She was a lot like this when I was super little, when she was married to my dad.
Even though she’s dying, and she can smoke as much as she wants to, she doesn’t have a single cigarette in the apartment. She drinks sometimes, and she’s not supposed to, but instead of being an angry drunk, she’s a crying drunk.
I sit at the kitchen table, organizing the movie tickets and printed pictures for the past three weeks. Scrapbooking is the art of memorializing life moments in a photo album, an art form Jewel will teach me tonight. We have color paper with quirky patterns, scissors, glue sticks, sticker letters, and a blank scrapbook album my mom’s had for eons.
Mom takes her seat beside me, at the head of the table, and looks through the paper… “I’m thinking pink?”
“Eww… just because were girls doesn’t mean we need to make it girly… how about red?”
“The male version of pink… okay…”
I laugh. I never looked at red that way.
“So… uh… what do you want to do for your baby shower?”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Well, do you want people to know the gender or not?”
I get what she’s doing… she wants me to tell her the baby’s gender…
“I think I’d rather get gift cards to buy baby clothes… so the guests don’t need to know, but who am I going to invite who can afford to bring anything? Do I have to have a baby shower?”
I watch mom cut and glue pink paper that looks like strokes of paint into the first page of the album. She takes the movie tickets and our pics outside the movie theater and arranges them in a manner pleasing to the eye.
“I never really asked you, I just assumed, but… do you fluffing want to raise the baby? Have you thought about adoption?”
She’s the third person to mention adoption to me. Last week, at work, I went to a grand opening to La Vie downtown to take pictures for Troy’s food critique, and he suggested Derek and I look into adoption. Then Kaylie brought it up yesterday saying that she felt led to bring that up to me. Now, my mom.
“Sniff, there was this sweet couple from church that wanted to adopt you… sometimes I think I should have let them…”
I hate it when she brings that up. It makes me loathe myself more. It makes me feel like she hates me and thinks I ruined her life.
“O fluff, are you crying, what for?” Jewel asks as she gets up. Coughing, she rips a piece of paper towel from the roll, hanging above the sink and comes back over to me. She hands the paper towel to me use as a tissue.
“I feel like you don’t love me when you bring that up…”
“If I didn’t fluffing love you, I would have aborted you.” She erupts into a long coughing fit as she covers her mouth with her fist.
Like on code blue alert, I shoot up from my seat, and worry, “Do you need your inhaler? Where is it?” I go to the bathroom to check the medicine cabinet. It’s not in there. I scan the bathroom counter and don’t see anything. I barge into her room and look on the dresser, the night stands, and then I remember she probably brought it with us… It must be in her purse. I think her purse is in the living room.
Before I can get to her purse, and I’m back in the kitchen, her coughing stops.
“I fluffing fine… You panic too easily.”
“How can I not panic? You’re dying… you’ve chosen to die and that can happen at any moment… how cannot freak out about that?”
“Oh Savannah…” Mom says embracing me. She squeezes me tight and kisses me on the forehead. “I love you…” She says with a shakiness to her voice like she’s about to cry. “I know I’ve been the world fluffing worst mother… A real mother fluffer mommy dearest and you don’t need to forgive me for the sniff I’ve done, the blick I’ve been, but please, do me a favor… don’t panic… everything is gonna be okay, okay?”
There’s something about being held by your mother. Listening to her heart beat in her chest. The scent of her, her shampoo, her perfume, her clothes, her sweat… and the peace that hits you and makes you feel safe… If I could stay like this with her forever, it would erase all the terrible things she’s done, and it would stop any future of her not being there. To not panic, I have to remember Jewel is a mom, she is my mother.
Alexis Fabry… she took back her maiden name when she divorced Derek’s dad. She’s a nurse at the hospital right down the street from my mom’s apartment. When Netty wanted to cart me around and look at hospitals to see which is the best one to have the baby, I was actually praying we wouldn’t go to Alexis’s hospital. Dr. Varejao can makes to four hospitals within the city, and its up to us which hospital we want.
We nearly make it out unseen, when Alexis enters the elevator before we can make it to the lobby.
“Savvy…” The tall, skinny aging blonde can’t say anything beyond my name.
“Ms. Shay?” Netty double checks she’s Derek’s mother.
“Yes, you’re Netty, right?” Alexis questions shaking my sister’s hand.
“The one and only… how’s Derek?”
“He’s doing much better… Um…” Alexis gulps as she nervously pulls on her ear lobe. “How, are you Savvy? Other than pregnant, I didn’t know you were pregnant… does… did… you tell… Derek?”
“That’s a good question, Savvy, have you told the father of you baby about his child?”
The doors to the lobby open up and I choose to escape. I barge in between them and book it for the exit. I’m not ready to tell Netty the truth… I will but do I have to on this day?
They both catch up with me outside the sliding entrance doors. Those similar blue eyes to Derek, gaze at me with a fused look of confusion and concern. I’m sure she sent Derek away to prevent becoming a young grandma. Good news, she’s not going to be a grandma any time soon. Bad news, I can’t go over that.
“Since Christmas, Derek’s been begging to come back home and to stay with me. He said you needed him, you told him, didn’t you?” Alexis wonders.
I nod yes.
“I don’t get it… If you told him about the baby, why didn’t he say anything to you Alexis?”
Alexis shrugs her shoulders… She suddenly grabs my hand and caresses my backhand with her thumb. “I’d love to have you and your family over for dinner tomorrow night, your sisters, your mom, and whoever else, and we can talk about what needs to happen from here… does that sound like a plan?”
Netty agrees to dinner without my consent. She never declines dinner. But if Alexis didn’t work all the time, she would be a perfect mom. She’s thoughtful and caring. She does all the house work even though she works over 50 hours a week. I used to wish all the time Alexis was my mom. I looked forward to her being my mother-in-law. Who knows what she is to me anymore? I don’t even know if Derek is still my boyfriend.
Savvy: Derek… I still love you…
Derek: SAVVY! I love you. I thought you were done with me. I just want you to know, I’m still here. You and me, always.
Savvy: What about the baby?
Derek: You, me… and the little bambino too😊
Derek: Yes, who else have you told… everything to?
Savvy: Just you… and my mom… no one else…
Derek: Did your mom believe you?
Savvy: I think. IDK.
Derek: I got a plan, but it won’t work if my parents learn the truth… How did dinner with my mom go?
Savvy: I’m alive… the baby is fine…
Derek: LMBO. My mom called me and reamed in to me for not telling her that you’re having my baby.
Savvy: But I’m not.
Derek: For my plan to work, you are…
Savvy: Is Jesus okay with you lying?
Derek: Probably not, but I don’t care. I’m never living without you.
Savvy: COME HOME!
Derek: I will be, Monday night? Will you come with my mom to pick me up from the airport?
Savvy: I’d love to but I have Botany at West Campus.
Derek: I’m getting in super late… like 9pm.
Savvy: I get out at 8:30.
Derek: Okay… Will Jewel be at work, maybe I can drop by?
Savvy: She works day shifts now, she’ll be home. Sorry.
Derek: When will I see you then?
Savvy: I guess whenever.
Derek: Can’t you skip one class? We haven’t seen each other in MONTHS!
Savvy: I’ll think about it.