Father of the Year
Ethan paced the length of the lounge room, having no idea what to do. There was no formula sheet for how to react to a situation such as this. On one hand, he hated keeping secrets from his best friends, but on the other, he didn’t have all the facts, so maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed from the few seconds he’d been in that room.
Either way, he was stuck and at a loss for how to react. Biologically, only two of the girls in that room where his daughters, but he considered them all to be family, so the fact that the pregnancy test could have been any of theirs was terrifying.
His finger had been hovering over the speed dial button for Nathan for the past ten minutes and he had just about built up enough courage to finally call his drummer best friend when Caroline appeared in the doorway.
“Hey, Care Bear,” he smiled softly, resorting to using her nickname as a coping mechanism because he had absolutely no idea what else to say. “How’s it going?”
“Alright,” she replied slowly, knowing he was making all kinds of assumptions about why she was the one coming to speak with him. “I just wanted to talk…about what you saw earlier.”
“Oh,” Ethan nodded nervously, keeping his lips in a friendly smile. He was glad she had made the first move and he didn’t want to scare her off. “Okay.”
Knowing that the longer she took to continue, the more of her nerve she would lose, she quickly blurted out what she wanted to say. “The test was mine. And it was negative.”
His first instinct was to assume she was covering for one of the other girls, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized that wouldn’t make sense. Admitting the test was hers meant involving Jack, Brody, and Nathan, which would be much too great a consequence if it wasn’t true.
So he nodded to confirm that he was on her side. “Okay.”
She blinked at him, unsure of how she was supposed to respond to such a lack of reaction. Her father would have shown every emotion possible in the span of a few seconds, but her Uncle Ethan was just staring at her, completely expressionless. Still, she knew better than to assume that was the end of the conversation, so she decided to be the one to bring up the most obvious follow up question. “Are you gonna tell my dad?”
Ethan paused for a moment, causing her heart to stop, before he shook his head and laughed softly. “I won’t if you don’t want me to. Considering that you’re not…you know, I don’t think this is something he really needs to know about. Are you okay, though?”
She thought that was a strange question to ask, but the truth was that Ethan had firsthand experience with situations like these and no matter which way the test read, the emotions afterward were all over the place.
“I’m alright,” she shrugged, playing with one of the string bracelets on her wrist. “Relieved, mostly.”
He figured that’s what she would say and flashed her an encouraging smile. “And Brody?”
Her lips parted in hesitation and her next words came out soft because she was almost certain he wouldn’t like them. “He doesn’t know.”
Ethan sighed, reaching up to comb his fingers through his hair. With his free hand, he gestured towards the couch, indicating she should sit. She did so silently, lacing her fingers together on top of her thigh as he seated himself beside her and began to speak. “Look, I know the logic of not wanting to worry your dad when there’s nothing to worry about anymore seems like it should apply to Brody too, but if you want my opinion, you should tell him. You were relieved that the test was negative, which means that this whole experience will serve as a wakeup call to you and you should allow it to serve as one for Brody as well. You don’t want to end up in this situation again in the near future only to have that test say positive this time.”
Crinkling her nose, Caroline pouted. “Are you gonna give me a lecture on safe sex?”
“I don’t think that would go well for either of us,” Ethan admitted with a laugh. “I do want to tell you a story, though. Has your dad ever told you anything about Kira’s birth?”
Seeing as Kira was in her parents’ wedding photos, all of the kids were aware that she was born before Ethan and his now wife were married, but Caroline sensed that there was more to the story, so she shook her head, not responding verbally.
“Well,” Ethan cleared his throat, unsure of where to begin. Of course, the rest of the boys and their wives knew all about Ethan and his wife’s rocky path to happiness, but it wasn’t a story they’d ever shared with their children, deciding that Kira and Lucy were the only ones who really needed to know. But Ethan was trying to prove a point, so he decided that perhaps it was time to fill in Caroline as well. “I guess I should start by saying that your aunt and I weren’t even dating when we found out she was pregnant.”
“You weren’t?” her eyebrows shot up in surprise. She’d never heard that part of the story before. She knew that Ethan and his wife hadn’t tied the knot until Kira was about two, but Caroline had always assumed this was because Kira had been a bit of a surprise and they just wanted to settle into parenting fully before they took the plunge.
“Nope,” he shook his head, struggling to find words that wouldn’t scar Caroline for life. “We were…having fun, I guess. I was young and the last thing I wanted was a commitment and she worked for our publicist, so she thought being involved with me was a conflict of interest, so she was okay with us not being anything serious. But things got really serious really fast when she found out she was pregnant. I remember it was a week after my twentieth birthday and there was a lot of screaming the first few hours after the test read positive, both of us blaming each other for getting us into this situation. It took me a little while to realize that was I was feeling was fear. I was just barely out of my teen years and I felt like I had no control over my own life, so there was no way I’d ever be able to be a father. Ultimately, though, I left whether or not she kept the baby up to her and I still remember clearly, the day she told me she was going to have it and that she was going to keep it and that she didn’t want anything from me.”
This was all news to Caroline. Thus far, she’d thought Ethan and his wife had just decided to do things a little out of the traditional order. “So how did you guys end up where you did?”
“It was a struggle,” Ethan admitted. “This sounds awful, but when she first told me that she could do it on her own, I was kind of relieved. I guess I figured that a child not having a father was better than having a shitty one. But because she still worked for us, I saw her a lot, and the more I saw her, the more I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right, so I told her that I wanted to at least try and slowly but surely, the whole idea of fatherhood stopped being something that terrified me. And it was through navigating her pregnancy and raising Kira that your aunt and I found our way back to each other and so far, it seems to be going okay.”
“I’d say it’s going a little more than okay,” Caroline laughed, still not entirely sure what the point of this story was, but appreciating the fact that her Uncle Ethan was revealing something so personal nonetheless.
“I guess what I’m trying to say,” Ethan stretched his lips into a small smile to match her grin, “is that parenthood is never something that you should be unprepared to take on and the fact that it worked out for us is kind of a miracle. I mean, we spent a good portion of the first few years of Kira’s life wondering if we had made the right decisions and it was a lot to handle for people our age. And you’re even younger than we were and you shouldn’t have those kinds of responsibilities in your life right now; not unless you’re truly ready for them.”
There was a pause as he furrowed his brow and looked at her seriously. “You’re not, are you?”
“Ready to have a kid?” Caroline raised an eyebrow. “Oh, hell no.”
“That’s good,” Ethan let out a relieved laugh, reaching over to squeeze his niece’s shoulder lovingly. “But do tell Brody, okay? I’m sure this is something that he would have wanted to support you through, so you should give him the chance to prove that he can be there for you; it’ll tell you a lot about the kind of future you have.”
“I will,” she nodded, leaning in to kiss her uncle’s cheek. “Thanks, Uncle Ethan.”
Ethan grinned as he pulled her in for a hug, thinking he had handled the entire situation pretty well. Keeping it a secret from Jack and Nathan would be difficult and he would feel bad about it, but in the end, it was for the greater good because perhaps there were something that the lead singer and drummer were just better off not knowing.
Caroline took her uncle’s advice the next day. She was sitting on the beat up couch in the Peters’s garage, watching Brody sketch for his latest art project when she decided that telling him sooner rather than later was always a good way to go.
Taking a deep breath in, she leaned forward over her crossed legs and spoke softly. “Hey, Brody? Can we talk for a minute?”
His charcoal pencil stopped moving immediately because he knew the fact that she had prefaced what she wanted to talk about with a question like that wasn’t a good sign. Nodding, he set his sketchbook and pencil to the side and hopped off the worktable he often sat on to draw, coming over to join his girlfriend on the couch, lifting one leg beneath him and twisting his torso so he could face her fully. “What’s up?”
“So I wasn’t completely honest with you about what I was doing yesterday,” she began slowly.
He lifted one eyebrow in surprise because Caroline had never lied to him before, even by omission. “You weren’t with the girls?”
“No, I was,” she assured him, reaching out to grab his hand for support. “I just didn’t tell you why…and the reason why is because I was taking a pregnancy test.”
There was a moment of silence as he blinked behind his black rimmed glasses and she couldn’t quite read his expression. “Oh. Are you…?”
“No!” she cried out, squeezing his palm reassuringly. “It was negative.”
“And how do you feel about that?”
She still couldn’t tell what he was thinking. “Honestly, I’ve never been so relieved in my life.”
Brody let out a shaky sigh, his lips stretching into a small smile as he leaned forward to kiss her quickly. “Good. Me too.”
“Yeah?” she felt as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “You’re not mad or disappointed?”
Shaking his head, he used his free hand to brush a loose curl back towards her ponytail. “No. I don’t think we’re at all ready for that. I wish you would have told me, though. I would’ve gone with you to get the test and stayed with you while you took it.”
“I know,” she smiled softly, glad that all of her assumptions that Brody would always be there for her were turning out to be true. “I’m sorry. I guess I just didn’t want to worry you if there was nothing to be worried about.”
“But, Care, that’s what I’m here for,” he replied simply. “To be worried about you and concerned for your well-being. I think that’s kinda the whole basis of being in a relationship.”
“Fair enough,” she laughed, thinking that this entire conversation had gone a lot better than she could have ever imagined. “I’ll let you know the next time I have a potentially life changing crisis.”
“Good,” he matched her grin. “Because I’d like the next time you take a pregnancy test to be because we’re both hoping it’s positive.”
He said those words completely sincerely and completely casually and if she was being completely honest with herself, she wasn’t even surprised. In fact, she was just excited and so incredibly grateful that the guy she was in love with seemed to be on the same page as her.
Smiling widely, she leaned forward to kiss him, whispering before their lips connected. “I’d like that, too.”