Dear Diary, this is my house in Alpine County where I now live. It’s bigger than I need, even with a baby on the way. In despair, and still in Egypt, I’d contacted my Grandpa Leo to tell him everything.
Of course, he wanted to help me, but he also made it clear I should be filling my parents in. I’m not sure if he understood why I can’t do that or not. Either way, I knew he was in my corner and that he’d keep his lips sealed.
I applied for teaching positions at several universities and it was Providence College in Alpine County that came through with the first offer. Since I had been able to save most of my money while on expeditions, I had enough for a down payment on a house, with Grandpa chipping in a little bit. Well, actually what happened was, he didn’t like the little house I picked out and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, here I am.
It is rather large, though.
Kind of like me. Over the past few months, I’ve mainly found myself wandering from room to room, wishing I wasn’t so alone.
Here’s a little tour:
The kitchen and dining room.
The living room.
My room. There is an attached bathroom. The other door leads to what I suppose I will use as a nursery.
My favorite room even though the doctor told me to cut back on my routine.
There’s a creepy basement and some other bedrooms. It’s all too much for me. I think in the smaller house I’d originally chosen, even if it wasn’t in the best neighborhood, I might not feel so terribly lonely.
I’m learning some handiness skills and so I’ve been making some improvements. This fireplace was a raging fire waiting to happen.
And I’ve been doing the normal things homeowners do, I suppose, like paying the bills and recycling newspapers.
Did I mention yet that now I walk like a stuffed penguin? OMG, I’m even wearing black and white! haha
I don’t know but it’s like this hard belly lump is throwing my entire center of gravity off. At least I can laugh, right?
It was while I was taking last night’s newspaper to the recycling bin that my phone rang.
Immediately, I recognized my youngest sister’s voice. “Susan! How are you? Where are you?”
She laughed heartily. Man, it was good to hear that laugh again.
“I could ask you the same thing. You’re the one off on all the crazy adventures.”
As glad as I was to be speaking to her, my heart sank just a little bit. Should I tell her? What should I say?
“Oh, yeah, sorry. I’m still here.” After taking a deep breath, I decided to tell her the briefest thing I could. “You’re not going to believe this. I just moved to Alpine County and I’ve taken a teaching position at Providence College.”
“Whoa! Who is this and what did you do with my sister?”
“I’m being totally serious.”
“Wow, this is hard to believe. Do the ‘rents know?”
“No, and you aren’t going to tell them either. I will let them know when I’m ready.”
“Now you’re starting to worry me. Is something going on?” she asked.
This was not going in a good direction so I switched gears. “Hey, you called me. What’s up?”
“Oh, uh, I need a place to stay for a little while. I won’t get in your way, I promise.”
“You thought I was in Egypt,” I said, raising an eyebrow. “You were going to stay with me all the way in Egypt on a dig site?”
“If I had to.”
This was sounding serious yet I knew her well enough to realize she wasn’t going to spill it all in a phone call.
“You can stay with me, of course. When will you be coming?”
There was a pause and I could hear the crinkle of paper as if she was flipping through a calendar or something. “This weekend. Is that all right?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll text you my address and everything.”
After she hung up, I tried to keep my mind from going in every direction as I attempted to figure out what was wrong with Susan. It was true that we’d lost touch while I was away so I really couldn’t fathom what the trouble was.
I just happened to be so lonesome, this was a good thing in my book and I couldn’t wait to see her.
It was another Monday morning but I’d canceled my a.m. classes because I had an ultrasound appointment. If truth be told, I was ecstatic I didn’t have to go to the college this morning because it turned out, I didn’t care much for teaching.
I wasn’t patient and kind like Xalen. He was the epitome of a “good professor.” More and more, I wished I could be like him yet it wasn’t meant to be. I was not made of the same stuff because when I faced a room full of bright-eyed pupils, I wanted them to understand what I was saying the first time and that never seemed to happen. The more I taught, the more I realized, though, it wasn’t the students, it was me. I’m just a sucky teacher. I’m a terrific linguist yet I can’t seem to understand how to interpret the material in the textbooks so they understand. How did Xalen do it so well and not lose his mind?
Of course, all I’d been doing since I arrived here is think of him and how I’d probably broken his heart. I knew his had to be shattered because mine sure was.
He’d never told me he loved me, but I knew he did. And I loved him with all my heart. Isn’t that why I’m putting up with this life now? It’s for him.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so miserable in my life. Still, I would make the same decision again if I had to… wouldn’t I? So often I had to give myself these mental shakes in order to reassure myself that the decision I made, no matter how it hurt, had been the right one.
I mean, this wasn’t so bad. I had a lovely, big house in a great suburban neighborhood…
…Even if the basement was on the creepy side.
‘Now, there is absolutely nothing to complain about,’ I told myself in the firmest way I could manage. ‘So what, you’re having a kid and you never wanted to have kids? So what, the man you love may not even be the father so you kicked him to the curb to spare him intense pain?’
These mental shakes didn’t always go the way they were meant to and I often felt worse than I had before.
Reluctantly, I went to my appointment at the hospital. I knew they would be able to tell me the sex of the baby and I also recognized that I was supposed to be excited. Fact was, other than the enormous amount of weight I’d already gained, I was trying very hard to ignore that there was a baby in there. Nevermind that I could feel it moving around sometimes.
As I left the appointment, I could no longer ignore this situation. It was real. All too real.
Over the next few days after work, I grew happier and happier that Susan was coming to visit. She would be shocked, no doubt, but I still couldn’t wait.
I made up a room for her and did the grocery shopping. These things I would normally find torturous because they were so mundane became a positive thing because it meant I was one step closer to seeing my sister.
At the store, I tried to pick out Susan’s favorite foods and I smiled to myself when I remembered how much she loved green olives. I would definitely make sure we had a big jar of those vile things.
As I was leaving, I got this weird prickly feeling on the back of my neck. The kind of thing that happens when you think you’re being watched. I know it sounds ridiculous but even so, I couldn’t stop myself from glancing all around me. I didn’t see anything but that didn’t mean no one was there.
Shivering, I hurried to my car and then home.
You should have seen Susan’s eyes and how round they were when she saw me on Saturday.
“Marty!” she gasped.
I couldn’t even look at her. Not because I was ashamed but because her reaction reminded me how horrible it all was.
Then, she pulled me into her arms and hugged me tight. “I love you and I’m so glad I’m here!”
Relaxing a little bit, I said, “I’m glad you’re here, too. More than you know.”
Despite my protests, she made dinner while I took a long bath. I guess she could see how uptight I was. You know, I’d forgotten what a great cook she is, too! We had mushroom bolognese over spaghetti squash and it really hit the spot.
We didn’t talk much about anything important until later that evening. The house was dark and quiet and we had a nice fire going.
“What happened?” she finally asked. “Why are you here in this house all by yourself? Didn’t the father want anything to do with you and the baby? I love your house and everything, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that… well, this doesn’t seem like something you wanted at all.”
As I listened to her, it became harder and harder to hide the despair from my face. My emotions rose up in me, bubbling until I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I ended up telling her the entire story.
“I’m so sorry about what you went through,” she said. “And you don’t know if Xalen or Beckett is the father?”
All I could do was shake my head because I was afraid if I spoke out loud, I would cry. And I was so, so tired of crying.
“It isn’t too late though, is it? You could call Xalen and tell him what you’ve told me.”
Was she crazy? “I can’t do that!” I said incredulously.
“But why not? From everything you’ve said it seems to me Xalen not only has the right to know all of this, I think if he really loves you, he’ll be by your side in a heartbeat.”
Would he… Shaking myself again, I said, “That isn’t fair to him, though, especially if this kid isn’t his.”
“Why don’t you at least let him decide that instead of deciding it for him?”
“Because then he would feel obligated to change his life and he shouldn’t have to.”
Abruptly, she stood up and warmed herself in front of the fire, her back to me. Even though I couldn’t see her face, I could hear the stubbornness in her voice.
“So, what? You’re going to just continue this life like this – a life you don’t want – and be some kind of martyr?”
“Believe me, I know I’m not a martyr. I did this because I love him and I’m keeping these kids.”
“OMG, Marty. These kids?”
“I had an ultrasound on Monday and I was told I’m having twins. They couldn’t see if they were boys or girls. So you see, this nightmare is a little worse than even I imagined.”
“You know, if this is such a horror show to you, why are you having them?”
I’d thought about this long and hard before making the decision to keep them. Finally, I told her. “Because when I talked to Grandpa Leo, he reminded me about momma. What if her mother had aborted her? You and I wouldn’t even be here.”
Susan stared silently into the fire for what seemed ages. “Well,” she said at last, “you’re going to need some serious help because I can’t even imagine how you’ll handle this all with teaching, too.”
“That’s an understatement.” After a long pause, I voiced one of the fears I had. “Susan, are you angry at me?”
“No, I’m not angry with you at all. But I think one day, Xalen might be.”
Tears filled my eyes and I wiped them away quickly. “I keep telling myself I’m doing the right thing. What should I do?”
She was quiet for a moment, then said, “Well, first we’re going to get some sleep. This all won’t be solved in one night. Then tomorrow, we’re going to put all of this on hold and you’re going to have some fun for once. It’s the weekend, for pete’s sake and I could use some fun, too.”
Susan wasn’t kidding about having fun. Early the next morning, she dragged me out of bed and we went to the local festival. It was the last weekend for it because Autumn was just around the corner.
While I was buying an ice cream cone, Susan headed for the kissing booth. The kissing booth! I guess she thought the kisser was cute.
As the sun shone down on me, I was already feeling better. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the raspberry ice cream was smooth and cold.
It wasn’t long before Susan joined me and I got that prickly feeling on the back of my neck again. As I looked around us, every person I saw seemed to be involved in their own thing and not looking our way at all. Why couldn’t I shake this feeling?
“What’s up with you?”
“Huh?” I asked, looking back at her.
“They’re playing Accidental Therapy! You know we’ve gotta dance to this, right?”
“Oh, Susan, I don’t – ”
Before I could finish my sentence, she grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the wall speakers. She looked absolutely silly, dancing like that. I glanced around us again and realized a few people were also coming over to dance.
Then, I gave myself the mental shake I really needed. ‘Since when do you care what anyone else thinks? So what if someone is watching?’ I scolded myself in my head.
So, I danced with Susan. For a little while, we giggled like little girls, held hands and spun around. And we forgot real life for a time.