I was lying in bed, just staring at the ceiling tiles, when the phone rang. I hadn’t had the sense to bring it in with me, so I quickly ran into the living room and grabbed it.
“Hello,” I said, wincing at how raw my voice was from crying.
“That bad, eh?” Steve’s voice on the other end immediately calmed me.
“Yeah. It was pretty rough.”
“I’m coming home,” he said.
“No, Steve. I’m alright. I just needed to hear your voice.”
“Then why don’t you come here?”
“No, I couldn’t. You’re up there to see Matt before he goes back to school….”
“Please? I’m sure everyone wants to see you. I know I do. I miss you,” he whispered sweetly.
“I miss you too,” I replied softly.
“All right. Give me directions.”
I took down directions, and told Steve I’d be there in a couple of hours.
“Be careful,” he said. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I replied before hanging up. I had left my bag in the car, so I just gave Sooty a good-bye scratch, telling him that Kevin would still be coming to check on him. I left a note for Kev letting him know that I would be with Steve if he needed to reach me before I headed out. I stopped at a gas station to fill up and grab a drink, reminding myself that I drink caffeine as I grabbed a bottle of water. The ride down to Steve’s parents’ house was peaceful, the late summer countryside zipping past my window soothing. Steve parents had moved out to the country a few years ago, and this was my first trip to their new place. Their house sat of the road, their driveway lined with large weeping willows. I pulled up and parked behind Steve, and by the time I got out of the car, he was waiting for me on the porch. I climbed the steps and felt his arms wrap around me.
“How was the drive?” he asked as I laid my head on his chest.
“Nice,” I said, breathing deeply, enjoying the warm scent of Steve’s body. “It’s pretty out here.”
“Yeah, it is. We’ll take a walk after dinner. I have something I need to ask you. But right now, dinner is almost ready.” He took my hand and led me inside. His parents and brother were in the kitchen. Matt was setting the table, his mom tossing a salad, his dad carving a roast.
“Hi Ahnka,” his mom said to me as she set the salad on the table.
“Hi, Mrs. Page,” I replied. “Thank you for having me.”
“We always enjoy having you around,” she said.
Steve’s dad set the roast on the table and said hi to me.
“So, are you all set to enjoy your time of from work?” he asked as we sat down at the table.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do for a month,” I said. “I’m probably going to be bored to tears.”
“You could come to uni with me,” Matt said, grinning at me in a way his brother had done numerous times. “I’ll keep you occupied.”
Steve reached across the table and smacked his brother across the back of the head. That quickly ended that discussion.
“So this is your last year, right Matt?”
“Yes, thankfully. I’m ready to get out in the world.”
“I remember when I was that young and excited,” their dad said. “Vaguely, but I remember.”
“You’re not that old, dear,” Mrs. Page said as she gently squeezed her husband’s hand. “No old fogy could do what you did to me last night.”
Steve and Matt both made choking sounds.
“EW!” Steve said. “I don’t want to know what you to do…”
“How do you think you got here, Steven Jay Page?” his mother asked, raising an eyebrow.
“As far as I’m concerned, you found me under a cabbage leaf.”
Dinner with the Pages served to take my mind off of things. When we were done eating, I helped Matt and Steve clear the table and put away the leftovers. I was putting the last of the dishes into the dishwasher when Steve put his hand on my hip and whispered “I’ll be right back” before he ran up the stairs. When Steve came back down, Matt gave me a strange smile then went to the living room with his parents.
“Let’s take a walk,” Steve said. We went out the back door and walked away from the house. Steve’ parents had a large plot of land, not really intending to do much with it, just hoping to keep people from building houses to close to them. The night was clear, the moon bright.
“It’s really nice out here,” I said, hoping to avoid the unavoidable.
“Yeah, I was glad when my parents bought the place. I got some writing done earlier.”
“Mm-hmm. So, want to tell me about it?”
“It wasn’t pretty,” I said.
“I’ve always known your mother didn’t like me. I just never knew why.”
“It’s because you’re Jewish,” I said. “She…Steve, the fight was about more than just our seeing each other. I…” I stopped, looking deep into his eyes, steeling my nerves. “I’m pregnant. And I don’t know who the father is…it could be you…or Jeff.” I turned away from Steve, not able to meet his eyes as I poured my soul out to him.
“She called the child a mongrel. A MONGREL! Like it’s some stray dog running along the road. I didn’t know what I was going to do…about the baby, I mean…….I don’t know if I can raise it on my own. I think…..I think I’m afraid of turning into my mother.”
Steve came up behind me and put his arms around my shoulders. I leaned into his chest and closed my eyes on the tears that wanted free.
“Ahnka,” he whispered into my ear, “you know I would never leave you to deal with something like this on your own, even if I didn’t have a stake in it. You do know that right?”
“I know,” I whispered.
“And you know that I love you, right?”
“I know. I love you too.”
“Ahnka, I…..I was going to ask you this anyway….” He turned his hand, which was close to my chin, over. I could see there was something in his hand, I just didn’t know what. “Ed and I had sort of planned something out, but I knew that you wouldn’t really appreciate it….it was too flashy….so I’ll ask you here, under the stars….” He moved his thumb and opened the box in his hand. I gasped as I saw the little silver ring, its diamond flashing in the moonlight. “Will you marry me?”
“Steve….I….” I was too stunned to speak.
“I know you’re confused, and maybe it isn’t fair of me to spring this on you now. But I wanted you to know that I’m asking you because I love you, and want to spend the rest of my life with you. Do you remember that double date we went on when we were sophomores? With Patrick Kline and Kelly Borden?”
“Very clearly. Why?”
“Well, the only reason you were there was because Kelly wouldn’t go out with me unless you went out with Patrick, and you agreed, even though you knew he would do nothing but try and get in your pants all night.”
“I knew how much you liked Kelly, so I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal.”
“That’s just it. You have no idea how big of a deal it was, at least for me. Yes, I really liked Kelly. And that night, I thought I was going to be in heaven, just being near her. But I didn’t enjoy myself at all. I saw how miserable you were dealing with Patrick, even though you tried to hide it.” I had know idea where this was going or what it had to do with anything, but the feel of Steve’s voice rumbling in his chest was soothing, and I turned myself to that I was facing him, my ear against his ribs. “I took a good look at Kelly, and I realized that she wouldn’t have put herself in your position. That night, when I got home, Dad asked me how it went. I told him, and I asked him something. I said ‘Dad is it possible to be so in love with someone that you don’t even realize it?’ He thought for a moment, and said ‘Yes, I think it is.’ I knew then that I was in love with you. And for the first few weeks of my new discovery, I warred with myself…to tell you or not. I was so afraid of doing something that would give away how I felt, and I was positive that, once you found out, it would drive you away. So not only would I never have the chance to love you, I’d lose my best friend as well.”
“So that’s why you went flakey the last few weeks of the semester,” I said, recalling how Steve practically avoided me for three weeks.
“Yeah. And being away from you killed me. So I decided to keep it a secret. It was torture, being near you, listening to you go on about this guy or that….I just to imagine that the guys were talked about were me. When you told me that you lost your virginity, I felt a stab of jealousy, wishing it had been me. When you would wind up at my door at three in the morning, crying because you just broke up with someone, it was all I could do to keep myself from going and kicking their ass for hurting you…..”
“My knight in argyle orange,” I said, fingering his sweater. Steve laughed softly.
“Ahnka, I never knew how complete you make me. The past few days without you, I’ve felt empty, incomplete, somehow lacking. But when you got out of the car, I felt whole again. I always longed for the type of marriage my parents have, and I think…no, I know, that I’d have that with you. You don’t have to answer me now. You don’t have to answer me ever, if you don’t want to. I just want you to know that I love you more than anything, and I want to spend forever with you. I’ll stand by you no matter what your decision with the baby. I know you know how I feel about some things, but I will not try to influence you in anyway….This is completely your choice.” I knew what he was referring to. One of our long running debates was the abortion issue. He was totally against it. I said it was a woman’s choice, and no one else’s. Now, I was face with that choice, but it wasn’t even an option.
“Steve,” I said, looking up at him. His eyes sparkled in the clear moonlight, and I noticed that he too was fighting tears. I don’t know if they were the same tears of confusion and fear that I had in my eyes, but they told me that he was asking me to marry him from the bottom of his heart, not out of an obligation. “If you aren’t the father……”
“If I’m not the father, I’d still like to be at least a close uncle,” he said. “I guess you’re trying to think of what’s best for the baby now…” I laid a finger across his lips.
“Steve, I know what’s best for the baby...a loving home with two devoted parents who love each other very much. And you’re offering me that. But I have to think about Jeff, if he is the father….there is a chance he might…What am I saying…There’s a chance he might care? Doubtful, but I do need to take him into consideration….if only for the fact that the baby should know his or her natural father….I want to say yes, but…”
“But what?” Steve asked softly.
“I’m still afraid of turning into my mother.” I told him about the argument. He took being referred to as ‘a filthy Jew’ much better than I had expected, although he was still trembling with rage by the time I finished. We resumed our walk, going down a slight sloping hill to a creek that ran through the property.
“You’re not going to be anything like you mother,” he said to me as he wrapped his arms around me once again. “The simple fact that you’re concerned you might be proves you won’t.”
“That’s some interesting logic there, Freud.”
“Seriously, think about it. You’re mother is a little on the vain side.”
“A little? Please, that’s like saying Kevin looks a bit like a choir-boy, or Ed’s eyes are slightly blue. She’s a snob, plain and simple.”
“Right, well….do you think she thought about what kind of mother she would be to you and Declan? Ever?”
“See? Your mom had two kids because it was fashionable. She does everything because it’s fashionable, or because it can open this door or that. I don’t think she gets pleasure from anything.”
“You know, I think that’s the harshest thing you’ve ever said about her.”
“It’s not the worst I’ve thought, though,” he admitted.
“I know,” I said as I laid my hand on his round cheek. “You never said anything really bad, but you never tried to suck up to her, either. Jeff did. All the time. Then when we’d get home, he’d talk about how shallow and superficial she was.”
“Wow, Jeff used a big word. I’m impressed.”
I couldn’t help but smile.
“Steve, I drove here, sort of hoping, sort of knowing, that you would make things better. I knew that you’d offer to stay with me no matter what. I know Jeff would never do that. I don’t know if Jeff would even hear me out….What did I do to deserve a friend, a lover, as great as you?”
Steve kissed me gently. “You kicked me in the balls.”
“Well, if you hadn’t made fun of me for skipping a grade…”
“We might not be here now,” Steve said softly.
“Well, I’m still sorry I kicked you.”
“God, Steve, you don’t know how much I love you.”
“Yes, I do. I can see it in your eyes, hear it in every word you say.”
I looked at him, overwhelmed with love, and even though I wasn’t sure whose seed had impregnated me, but I knew who the real father to my baby was. There was no question in my mind that, even if the baby wasn’t his, Steve would treat the baby as if it were his own. I kissed his full lips, then took his hands in mine. I gazed deep into his eyes and whispered one word.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the ring, sliding it onto the ring finger of my left hand then kissing it, as if to seal it to my finger.
“I promise you, Ahnka, I will love you until my dying day.”
“I promise you the same, Steve.”
“Thank you,” he said as he brushed my hair from my shoulder. “Thank you for loving me.”
Our lips met again, this time going deeper. Our tongues met, our
hands roamed over each other’s bodies. I don’t know when it happened,
but we ended lying on the ground by the creek, slowly working clothes off,
our lips never once parting. The need inside of me was a slow burning
desire, nothing urgent, just a tender need for Steve. He hovered
over me for a moment, pulling is lips from mine.
“Is this OK? I mean, will it hurt the baby?”
“No,” I said, pulling him down to me, raising me hips to meet him as he entered me. As we made love there by the creek, I thought about the little life inside of me. It really hadn’t taken me long to come to terms with the fact I was pregnant, and now that I was sure I wouldn’t face it alone, I was excited. Scared, yes. But knowing that Steve would be with me made me feel much better.
Steve tailored his movements to ensure that I came first, and once I
had done so, he rolled so that I was on top of him. He hugged me
against his chest so that I couldn’t sit up and continued his slow, almost
lazy movements. I kissed his neck and nibbled his ear, and as he
came, so did I, a sweet gentle orgasm that made my entire body relax.
We laid in each others arms for quite a while, never saying anything other
than ‘I love you’. After a time, the night are started to get chilly,
and so we parted and slowly got dressed. He took my left hand in
his right, and together, we walked back to the house. I was convinced that
my life could not get any better than it was at that moment. I was
with the man I loved, I had a new life growing inside of me, and I was
living my life for me, my child and Steve. I had always had dreams
about this, of the perfect life with the perfect man. I just never
thought those dreams would come true.