Time passed quickly even though I missed Leo desperately. If I was being honest, things did run more smoothly with just the girls at home, but nothing could ever take the place of my son and I longed for the day when he would come home. When I spoke to him on the phone, he sounded fine and Keniesha said he was doing all right. I guess I would have to trust them both on this one.
Liev and I were just finishing up in town, putting our groceries in the trunk of our car and talking about Leo when in my peripheral vision, I saw blue hair. Straightening up from my bent position over a grocery sack, I took a better look. Yes, even with her back to me, I recognized Chrissy Valentine.
Getting Liev’s attention, and we approached her to say hi. I know I’ve done nothing but complain about the girl since I met her, but I wished her no ill will and honestly did want to see how she was doing.
However, I was taken aback by what I saw as we got closer. I put my hand on Liev’s arm and we stopped walking.
“She’s pregnant!” he exclaimed.
I nodded, my heart sinking. A whirlwind of thoughts and emotions hit me all at once.
“I just don’t believe this!” I said.
“That doesn’t mean it’s Leo’s baby,” Liev reasoned.
“But how do we ask?” I whispered back to him.
“And would she tell us the truth?”
“Good point,” I said. “What do we do?”
He shook his head. “I just don’t know.”
We hesitated, unsure of how to proceed. Then we glanced at each other. I could read him like a book and we both took a couple of steps back in order to leave. Maybe we should just speak to her grandmother.
But before we could successfully make our escape, she saw us and came over, all grins.
“Hey! You’re Leo’s parents!”
“Uh, yeah,” Liev stumbled.
“How are you?” I stupidly asked.
“Well, not good! Duh!”
Liev and I stared at her, our jaws hanging, like a couple of idiots. My brain felt dull and my breath caught in my dry throat.
“So, yeah, I heard Leo moved away. When I call him, he doesn’t answer or call me back and his voice mail isn’t set up. So, where’d he go and why can’t I get a hold of him?”
I kept my voice as calm as I could under the circumstances. “We think it’s best that the two of you take a break.”
“Oh, really? You think we need to take a break? You don’t get to tell me what I can do!”
“We most certainly can tell Leo what to do and we have,” Liev said, speaking in his mild but stern way.
Chrissy’s eyes narrowed as she glared at us, her cheeks turning red and her hands clenching into fists at her sides. “So that’s it?” she yelled. “You’re just tearing us apart? Just like that?”
“Please don’t yell,” I said. I wasn’t as much worried about the people nearby who were now looking in our direction as I was that she shouldn’t be upset like this. “If there is something we can do to help you, we would like to.”
She stared at me for a moment, her chest heaving as she opened and closed her hands into fists. “I don’t need your help but I do expect him to take care of this kid,” she snapped, glowering at us.
In spite of telling myself to remain still, I gasped. Oh no. This cannot be. No, no, no! Leo, what have you done?
I couldn’t bring myself to say anything more to her. Liev mumbled something about getting in touch with her later when we’d had time to absorb this and we made our exit. I think she was plenty glad to see us go.
At home, we weren’t doing any better.
“How? How could Leo let this happen?” I demanded, my anger and frustration bubbling up.
Liev shook his head and ran his hand though his hair nervously. “I don’t know. I mean, how could we not have known they’d been seeing each other until we found them in our house like we did? Where were we?”
I shook my head in disbelief. It was as if we’d been sleeping for a very long time and now we couldn’t wake up from this horrific nightmare.
“What are we going to do?”
He put a hand to his forehead as if that would help him concentrate. “We don’t even know if she’s telling the truth.”
“We have no idea if Leo and she…. if they…you know…and if she’s… had any other boyfriends.” I was really struggling to remain tactful.
He thought for a moment, then grabbed the car keys. “We’re going to talk to her grandma! Tonight!”
By the time we figured out her address and arrived there, it was dark outside. We hesitated outside the apartment building.
“It’s getting late,” I worried.
Liev pointed up to the front windows. “The lights are on.”
“Well, what are we going to say to her? Hi, nice to meet you. By the way, our son knocked up your granddaughter. Any thoughts on that?”
He watched as I pushed my sleeves up like somebody about to get into a scuffle and said, “I guess maybe I should do the talking.”
“Ring the doorbell then, if this is what you want to do.”
So we stood there for a few more minutes doing nothing. At last, we both reached out to ring the doorbell. Which, as I say so often, would have been comical in any other situation.
Chrissy’s grandma let us inside her apartment and asked us to sit.
“What is it I can do for you?” she asked in a small voice after we’d introduced ourselves.
I couldn’t get over how worn out she looked. “Well, um, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but our son Leo was seeing Chrissy.”
“Kind of dating her,” Liev awkwardly added.
“Oh Leo is such a nice boy. All that red hair!”
“Uh, yes,” I said. Liev was surprisingly quiet for someone who said he’d do all the talking. “Mrs. Valentine, we came to see you because we ran into Chrissy today at the supermarket and–”
“–Supermarket? Did she get a job?”
Liev and I glanced at each other again, uncertainly. “I don’t know if she’s working there or not. What I was saying is that we were really surprised to find out that she’s…. um… expecting.”
“Oh, she wouldn’t go to the grocery store for that. I have all my packages delivered here. Our mailman is such a nice boy. He says hello to me every morning. Or does he come in the afternoon? I can’t remember.”
I bet that’s not everything she couldn’t remember.
“Mrs. Valentine, Chrissy is going to have a baby,” Liev said.
“Babies are so nice,” she said agreeably. “When Chrissy was a baby, I took very good care of her. Oh my! Did she cry all the time! It was the colic, you know. Now, her father was my son and, oh dear, I haven’t seen him in a long time, have I?”
This was getting us nowhere fast. “Mrs. Valentine–”
“–My name is Mabel. I was named after great-grandma’s friend’s sister. Now, it means ‘lovable’ and I say it like this: May-Bell. But you see, everyone I know says it like this: May-Bull. And I don’t like that as well. We had a bull on our farm when I was a girl and he did scare me! One time, our neighbor boy Jem dared me to get as close to the bull as I could and it chased me! Papa was nearby or I might have died!”
We sat in stunned silence as she went on, not to talk about bulls or her papa or the neighbor boy whose name was Jem, but to ramble about a rhubarb patch somewhere and strawberry rhubarb pie.
After a while, she stopped with the incoherent narrative and began watching TV which had been on with the sound turned low all this time.
“So,” I tried again, “does Chrissy live here full time?”
“Chrissy? Yes, she lives here. She cried all the time when she was a baby. It was the colic, I’m sure of it.”
“Mrs. Valentine,” Liev said, “is she here now?”
I put my hand over my heart. We couldn’t leave this old woman here like this, but what were we to do? After a long disjointed and muddled conversation in which I asked if she had any relatives nearby, I finally located her address book and gave it to Liev. He called someone with the last name of Valentine while I looked in her refrigerator.
Just as I suspected. There was nothing to eat. I’d seen a shop down the road, so I went there quickly and bought her a few staples. When I got back, Liev was still on the phone and Mrs. Valentine was watching TV with a slight smile on her face and blank look in her eyes.
After I put the groceries away, I made her a sandwich and brought it to her.
“Oh that’s so sweet. Thank you dear,” She said between bites.
Liev put his phone in his pocket. “I spoke with a cousin who promised to be here later tonight to assess the situation.”
I let out a relieved breath and gathered my things to go home.
The next morning, I watched the girls playing outside as they waited for the bus. This was part of their morning routine. They had roughly fifteen minutes to play before the bus arrived and the driver would start laying on the horn.
As the swings went back and forth, my mind drifted. I bit my lip, thinking about Chrissy’s situation. Her grandmother’s situation. And, of course, what impact this would all have on Leo, too.
My first impression of Chrissy had been the obvious. She was trouble. But having looked deeper into her life, it kind of amazed me that she hadn’t gotten into worse trouble sooner. Clearly, no one was looking after her. It made me sad to think that she was just a girl and living in a situation where she had to fend for herself. How long had her grandmother been this way? When had Chrissy last eaten or been told that someone loved her? Where were her parents and why weren’t they caring for her? Who was taking her to the doctor for her appointments now that she was pregnant?
The questions kept mounting and I was determined to find out all I could. This may or may not be Leo’s baby. Regardless, this girl needed help and fast!
Coming to, I tapped on the window to let the girls know it was time for them to wait in front of the house.
As they waited for the bus and spoke about how excited they were for their birthday today, I thought again about Chrissy and her baby.
I wanted to scream and yell at Leo, who so far, was oblivious to all of this. Liev and I hadn’t had a chance to tell him yet and we didn’t know what the news would do to him. We’d decided together that we’d call him after the girls’ birthday tonight.
Liev had, however, spoken with Mrs. Valentine’s cousin again this morning and he had assured Liev that he’d arrived and was looking after her and Chrissy.
It wasn’t much of a consolation, but it was a start. I put a hand to my throbbing forehead.
Oh, Leo, I moaned inwardly. How could you let this happen? What were you thinking?
I shook my head as if to clear it and bit my lower lip again. What it came down to was that no matter how angry I was, there was now a baby to think about. Anger just wouldn’t accomplish much right now.
Later, I tried to keep myself busy making the girls’ cakes as they did their homework. The busier I kept myself, the less my mind had to worry.
I was determined that these recent revelations would not spoil Rachel and Daylynn’s birthday. None of this was their fault. They’d had so much pain and heartache lately, this day was not going to be ruined.
Finally, the time had come!
Daylynn blew out her candles first….
… Then it was Rachel’s turn.
Rachel posed first for the camera. What a beauty she has become! To me, she looked strikingly like Jilly.
Then Daylynn stood still for her picture. Oh my, but I’m so proud of her! I think she looks a lot like her father.
I can’t wait to see what these girls do with their lives.
Before I knew it, the celebration was over, the girls were upstairs getting ready for bed and I was left with my thoughts again. My mind kept picturing Leo at Keniesha’s. I tried to imagine him playing his guitar or swimming in their pool. If he was making the progress my sister reported, would telling him something like this unravel everything that had been accomplished? What if the baby wasn’t his? I sighed. But what if it was? Leo had a clear responsibility in that case. Either way, I now had a responsibility because I knew Chrissy needed serious help. Speaking to Mrs. Valentine’s cousin about all of this would be a must.
Liev is coming toward me now with a grim expression. I must put you away, Journal. We’re supposed to make our call to Leo now, but I need to speak to my husband again. We need to talk this through some more and decide if that’s what we should really do at this point.