“Mom.” She said looking at her with sadness and fear in her eyes. “I’m going to have a baby. I’m pregnant.” A flash of the abortion clinic that ended her first pregnancy popped into Annie’s mind. The grey walls, the nurse that spoke kindly to her as the procedure was being performed, and then the guilt she felt afterwards stole all of the happiness that this moment should have brought.
“You are? Well!” Deborah’s ‘Well’ was drawn out and seemed to go on for minutes. “How far along are you? When did you find out?” Deborah walked to her daughter with delight on her face and a welcoming hug. “How do you feel? What did Marshall say? OOOHHHHH Mary will be so excited, does she know yet?” Annie took a step back in disbelief and confusion, she was getting the feeling that her mom was okay with this baby, that would be born to two people who were not married or living together. They were only dating, sure they’d been together for years, they were in love, but that wasn’t enough.
“Wait mom, you’re okay with this, because I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to take care of a baby, I don’t have my own house, and I don’t.” Annie stopped, sat down in what was known as “moms” chair at the kitchen table, covered her face with her hands and began to sob. “Is this okay?” She said through her tears. Remembering how it felt the first time she told her mom she was pregnant. “What am I going to do?” She looked at up at her mother, and wondered, why she seemed accepting and happy about this life changing news.
“Annie, why wouldn’t it be okay, you’re 20 years old and working, you’ve been with Marshall for years. Your daddy and I knew it would only be a matter of time until you and Marshall did get pregnant.” Deborah explained. “Why are you getting so worked up, what did Marshall say?”
Wiping her tears away she grabbed a tissue and responded “he doesn’t know”. I came straight home, that’s why I’m here early, I didn’t call or go by to see him, and I just came home”.
“Well, child.” Her mom’s country voice came through strong. “Get on the phone and call that boy right now, go on, call him.” That demand from her mother was one she couldn’t ignore. Especially since she stood there with her hands on her hips.
Annie slowly got up from the chair, trying desperately to process what had just taken place. She’d nearly made herself sick wondering what it would be like, when she announced this news to her mom. The fear of rejection, fear of her mom being angry at her or disappointed, was some of what she was expecting. None of that happened, not even close. It seemed as though her mom had been wanting or waiting to hear this news for some time. She appeared excited and thrilled. With a deep breath and wet face Annie did exactly as her mother instructed. Slowly she walked down the hall that was covered with framed pictures of Annie and Alex’s childhood. A wooden rifle rack that also held a fox tail, light orange in color and black at the very tip, that hung by a black cord. Her father had killed the fox and saved the tail for Annie. At the end of the hall was her parent’s room. A master bedroom decorated in a Victorian styled theme. Gold sconces hung on the creamed colored walls, lace curtains covered the bedroom windows. Two woodened dressers on each side of the far window, where Deborah kept her collection of porcelain figurines. At the foot of the queen sized bed sat a black guitar case, inside was a tan Yamaha fender guitar. Annie’s mom played the guitar ever since Annie was a small child. She didn’t read sheet music, Deborah played by ear. She could listen to a song and play the chords exactly. Always sweet music to Annie. When she was younger, her mom would shut herself inside that bedroom with a glass of wine or glasses of wine and sing into a microphone while playing that old guitar. Annie would prop herself up on the hallway wall right next to the door. She would tap her foot and hum along to her mother’s one woman band. To the left of that hall was a smaller hall separating two bedrooms that she and her brother grew up in. He moved out sometime ago, later moving back in for a short period, then moved out again leaving behind his one year old daughter Brittainy. Annie’s parents had been given full custody of her, after neither Alex nor Brittainy’s mother could support her. A long grueling process that ended so sweetly. After custody was awarded to the Deane’s, Annie felt like she had a little sister. Sleeping soundly in the bedroom to the left was the five year old, to the right was Annie’s room. She crept her bedroom door open as to not disturb her sleeping dad or niece, even though the sound of her dads snoring could wake the dead, still she was careful. Once inside she quietly closed the door flicked on the light and exhaled. What a long day she thought, then she ran her hand over her tummy, and held it there. The approval of her mother had just been given along with the assurance that everything would be fine. With that, a huge amount of weight had been lifted off of her. The tiniest bit of excitement came over Annie and hope was being felt. If her mother was okay with her unplanned pregnancy, then she could be too. She loved Marshall with all of her heart and knew he felt the same about her.
Annie picked up the phone and dialed his number. He answered on the first ring.
“Hello.” He said quickly.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Annie asked. She didn’t know how to sound, excited, scared, or happy. Too many emotions for her process. Just an hour ago she was scared and felt like a lost teenager, but now she had confirmation from her mother that everything would be okay, so she thought she’d have a little fun with it.
His deep voice came through quickly. “I’m waiting for you. Said you were coming over, where are you?”
“Oh, I changed my mind. I came home instead.” A tiny ripple of a smile took over her thin lips, as she plotted on how to spring this roof shattering news to the boy she’d crushed on since the six grade. Even though he had ignored her, and then dated her best friend Shannon for two years. It wasn’t until their last year of high school, did the 5’11” cutie notice Annie. The two began to date, and now, almost four years later she was carrying his baby.
“Changed your mind?” Hhe asked.
“Yep, changed my mind. Why? Do you miss me?” She said in her most pitiful voice.
“Well you said you were coming over to give me some”. Marshall said.
Annie laughed out loud, it felt good to laugh and it felt good to have this information to tease him with. “Oh, you’ve had enough!” She said with excitement. “You’ve had plenty”.
“Never.” He goes on clueless as to what bomb she was about to drop. “I can never get enough of a good thing.”
“Ha!” She tells him. Laughing, she can’t stand it anymore. “Well guess what?”
“You love me?” He answers.
“Yes, and you are going to love me a lot more now, there’s going to be a lot more of me to go around.” Smiling so big now, she’s surprised he can’t feel it through the black and blue phone she talked on, that lit up when it rang.
Laughing he asks her. “What are you talking about?” “More cushin for the pushin? Planning on breaking me off some”. A term he so commonly used when he wanted to have sex.
“You’re gonna be a daddy!” She blurts out.
Silence from the other end of the phone. You could hear a pin drop if wasn’t for the loud sounds of snoring coming from her parents room. Annie sat on the side of her twin sized bed that she had neatly made up before leaving for work that day. A powder blue comforter, big puffy pillows and a brown stuffed bear that Marshall had given to her one year for Valentine’s Day, which sat at the head board. While holding the phone receiver to her ear with her shoulder, she kicked off her black reebok tennis shoes and pulled off her socks. She’d forgotten how badly her feet and legs ached earlier, even forgot about how lost she had felt. Now anticipation for his response was all she focused on. The silence was deafening.
“Hello, are you still there?” She asks. “Helloooo”? She draws out the llooooo. “Marshall, did you hear me”? Now pleading with him to say something.
“You’re pregnant?” He says in a low voice, almost sounding scared that someone else was on the line listening in. “Are you?” He asks again.
A sinking feeling in her chest consumed her, as her hands begin to shake, trying to rationalize his tone. Why doesn’t he sound happy about this news? She thought. Even though shortly before she had felt like she was hanging from a cliff, lost, confused, and terrified? His response should be of pure delight she thought. Happiness in knowing that the love of his life was carrying his child, and that the two of them would forever be connected.
“I had a pregnancy test taken and it came back positive.” She explained to him. Never once letting him know how petrified she felt when she learned the news. “We are going to have a baby.”
“What are your parents going to say, what about your dad?” Marshall sounded truly worried about what Annie’s dad would think. Knowing that once upon a time, her father hated black people. He forbid Annie to be friends with anyone of color. He cursed black people and called them names. Annie was taught to feel the same, but never once did she think the way that her father did. He grew up in the time of segregation, the time when black people and white people were separated. He was brought up in a time period where people of color were hated for just that. The color of their skin. Then later were forced to use the same restrooms, same work places, expected to treat each other as equals. The thought of that same man having a mixed grandchild, half black and half white, and that Marshall was the father scared him to death.
Annie’s dad had a change of heart shortly after he met Marshall, he saw how much his daughter cared for him and how sweet and caring Marshall was to Annie. Never once did he single him out or treat him badly. Her parents had grown to love him. They would even ask Annie to invite him over for dinner, and Deborah would always make sure the house had Hawaiian punch and an apple pie. Two of Marshall’s favorites.
“They already know, I told mom as soon as I got home. I had to.” Admitting she was scared and didn’t know what to do. “I missed a few of my birth control pills, I guess.” She said. Annie started feeling like it was getting harder to breath, she felt her face getting hot. Was she now defending the reason of how she got pregnant to a guy who loved to do any and everything imaginable with his Annie? Skipping school to sneak off to Marshall’s sister’s apartment to satisfy each other while no one was home. Once the two ended up at a park to fool around in the back seat of Marshalls blue cavalier. After what felt like only a few minutes, Annie saw a man pushing a young child in a stroller across the parking lot.
“Oh gosh Marshall, some ones coming!” Panicked Annie shoved Marshall off of her. She pulled up her jeans, and made a quick glance toward where she saw the two strolling. Apparently the dad was smart enough to know what the two teenagers were up to and redirected his stroller back the way it came. Marshall and Annie burst into laughter then finished getting dressed. Annie smoothed her long brown hair and checked her make-up in the rear view mirror. The mood had ended that was for sure.
“Do you think he saw anything?” She asked her boyfriend who was almost dripping with sweat. Laughing, he responds with a proud grin, wipes the sweat from his forehead with his pointer finger and kissed her cheek.
“So they know, what did your mom say?” He asks, speaking a little louder now. Annie tells him about the relief she felt when she did tell her mom. The calmness and reassurance she received and that everything would be fine. Her hands stopped shaking and she wished it wasn’t so late at night. She needed and wanted to be with her love at that moment just as much as she had needed her mom hours before.
“I’m going to get changed for bed, everything will be okay. Okay?” She says.
They said their goodnights and hung up. Over the next couple of months, Annie began to move up the ranks at her retail job. She got promoted to a higher position, received a pay raise, she was even given monetary awards. Annie was determined now more than ever to put this little person growing inside of her first, and above all. The excitement was growing just like her belly. The night Annie received the call that spun her world in to a whirlwind of emotions and the resurfacing of a painful past, she wasn’t sure how she could make such a sacrifice. What would it be like to have someone totally dependent on her? As the days passed by she and Marshall spent more and more time together. She began spending some nights at his house, even keeping some of her belongings in his basement bed room. Marshall lived with his parents in a duplex in the city. Annie liked the time they shared, she felt like the two could live together, but, not there. Not in that basement. The ceiling of it wasn’t even covered. Particles of insulation could be seen floating through the room, the carpet was an ugly goldenrod color, it was shaggy, stained and dirty. No! She needed another place for them to call home, a house for the three of them to live in.
Driving home to her parents’ house one night after days spent at Marshalls, she noticed a dog laying in the road. It appeared to be injured, so Annie pulled into the drive of an Elementary School, parked her car and started walking toward the dog. It was late that night and there wasn’t much traffic, so she felt it was safe enough to check and see if the dog was okay. Squinting her eyes as she focused on its movements, out of nowhere a car sped by and ran over the helpless animal. Annie gasped and cupped her hand over her mouth. Pain shot through her as she watched the little dog roll from underneath the car tires and bounce, landing several feet from its original location. Annie began crying hysterically at what she had just witnessed.
“Oh my!” She shrieked. Why did they just do that? She thought. Did they not see it? Or me? Maybe they didn’t know what it was? At the very least they could have slowed down or swerved to avoid hitting it. Annie stood there in the dead of night, pregnant and alone, forgetting the danger she was putting herself in, forgetting about the safety of her own baby. Looking both ways before crossing the road, Annie jogged over to retrieve the dog. As she got closer, she could now see that it was a puppy. A brown and white, short haired beagle, with floppy ears and a long tail. She scooped it up and carried it over to the grass to lay it down.
“Stupid and reckless!” She said out loud. Then realizing she herself was acting the same, only on a different scale. She walked to the trunk of her car, reached in, grabbed an old towel, and then placed it over the pup. This was someone’s pet, someone loved this little guy and will be devastated when they learn that it was killed, she thought. But, just as important, it now lay dead in front of an Elementary School, where young children would be the very next morning. A sad start to whomever discovers its body. The towel did the job, it shielded the puppy enough to hide it, and hopefully an adult would find it, and not a child. When Annie arrived home she told her mom exactly what had happened to the puppy, right in front of her.
“You’re lucky that person didn’t hit you Annie! What were you thinking, you could have been killed, or kidnapped! You should have used better judgment, you can’t just walk out on to a highway in the middle of the night PREGNANT no less!” Deborah was furious at Annie’s rash behavior. They were both dog lovers, but Annie’s actions could have led to three deaths, not just the one. Growing up Annie had dogs that she loved, and so many cats she’d lost count. Her family pet Barney, a mixed golden retriever, had been run over and killed just like the puppy, so she knew the heart ache its owner would face. Family pets were priceless.
The following days passed by quickly for the expecting couple. Marshall attended Annie’s Dr’s appointments, he listened to the heart beat through the Doppler with so much excitement. He would hold Annie’s hand, close his eyes and listen to the beautiful rhythm, asking questions about the development and growth of their baby. He was proving to already be a good father. He was truly interested and involved in every step of the pregnancy.
Marshall always put his Annie before any and everything. While having one of Annie’s frequent mood swings, she refused to fasten her seat belt as the two were driving through town. The warning sounds came from the dash board of Marshall’s cavalier, it notified the driver that the passenger side seat belt was not secure. The BEEP, BEEP, BEEP sound would continue until it was clicked into place.
“Annie put your seat belt on.” Marshall begged. Careful not to piss her off even more than she was.
“NO!” She yelled. “It’s not comfortable, I don’t need it, just drive!” Surprisingly enough Marshall was taking Annie to different jewelry stores shopping for a diamond ring. He’d never take it upon himself to pick one out on his own. Annie liked to be in control, she wanted to pick out her own engagement ring, and she didn’t want him to surprise her. The couple had thought it would be more socially acceptable if they at least got engaged. No wedding bells were ringing for either one. They were in love and happy with their relationship, neither one ever felt threatened that someone else would come between them. They were perfectly content with how things were.
“You do need it, you need it for the baby! Put it on, now!” Marshall was starting to lose his patience with his pregnant girlfriend. Her mood swings were really starting to bring him down. She had been bitching the entire day about everything. Marshall has always been calm and cool, things never really bothered him. He was even voted The Most Friendliest in middle school. Marshall had a great personality, very compassionate and loving. Any girls dream boy. He’d never raised his voice to Annie even if she was arguing with him. Which seemed to happen more often than not. Annie would be the one complaining or arguing, not Marshall. He was weirdly okay with just about everything. That’s the one thing that bugged Annie the most. He wouldn’t argue with her no matter what she would say, no matter how stupid she sounded. She would try her hardest to get a rise out of him, push his buttons to make him show some sort of anger or frustration. She’d fail every time. Until now. Quickly Marshall whipped the blue Chevy Cavalier into a McDonald’s parking lot, hit his brakes and slammed the car into park. He reached over her grasped the seatbelt strap, pulled it across her and latched it into place. Sitting back into his seat he let out a loud huff, banged the palm of his hand on the steering wheel then twisted his head to the right then the left, trying to ease his tighten muscles. This behavior was very uncommon for Marshall it took even him by surprise. Taking a deep breath, Marshall looked at the love of his life, the mother of his unborn child with worry in his eyes and distress on his face.
“Are you done yet?” He asked reaching out his hand to touch her cheek. He had nothing to be sorry for, but still told her that he was. She sat there looking out the car window, staring into space. Silence. After what felt like an eternity to the both of them, Marshall turned the car around and drove home. Neither one spoke or even looked at each other until the car stopped. He pulled into the short driveway facing the gray wood siding duplex he lived in. It was still early, and even though Annie was upset and visibly pouting, she didn’t want to leave him. She wanted to spend the night with him, she wanted Marshall to wrap his arms around her and hold her. His arms were strong and noticeably defined from working out, but they were also very gentle. She had been a pain in the ass all day, but Marshall forgave her. The two curled up together on the same queen sized bed their baby had been conceived in. He held Annie, rubbed her back and ran his fingers down her thighs, he gently kissed her lips. Annie felt safe and secure, she loved the way he touched her, the way his touch made all of the anger she felt earlier, dissipate. She wanted him as badly he wanted her, so she let him have his way with her.