by Josselin Kohl
The worst part was that there wasn’t even anyone she could talk it over with.
She was close to her parents, sure, but even daughters who were close to their parents never wanted to have the “Gee, Mom, I got knocked up by a one night stand” talk if it was at all possible to avoid it, and she still wasn’t sure if it was.
And then there was Justin—or rather, there wasn’t Justin, which was what had gotten her into this mess in the first place.
So after a month of blissful innocence, a month of denial, and three days of loneliness, she told herself to pull herself together, and went over to the loft.
She ran up the steps to the building, shivering and wrapping her arms tightly around her chest, and she almost lost her nerve on the top step, but she forced herself to keep going because she really didn’t have any other options. She punched in the code, which she remembered from all the months when Justin lived there, and then she took the elevator up, because she decided that if she had to question herself on every single step up to the third floor she was going to turn around.
After she knocked, Brian answered the door and he looked like he was about to go out, wearing a black silk blouse and tailored black pants. He was holding a bottle of water in one hand. “Daphne,” he greeted her, giving her a raised eyebrow. He gestured for her to come in, and she did, taking hesitant steps across the threshold. “Can I get you anything to drink?” Brian offered, and she shook her head quickly, feeling her braids whap against her neck.
“So... what’s up?” Brian asked her as she settled herself on one of the bar stools. He stood across from her, leaning his forearms on the counter.
She cleared her throat. “I’m pregnant.” There was perhaps a more subtle way to put it, but she couldn’t think of it.
Brian stared at her for a moment with his face completely blank, and she played with the fringe on the bottom of her sweater and the button on the cuff of her coat, and then he laughed—kind of a half-laugh half-choke noise. “That’s a new one,” he said dryly, putting his water bottle down on the counter and rubbing the back of his neck. “I mean,” Brian continued, “I’ve had guys come and tell me later that they were positive, or that they had any variety of STDs, and I’ve had Justin’s fucking mother come drop his duffle bag on my desk, but this is really new.” And yeah, STDs, and she’d been thinking about those, too, since obviously condoms are not as much her friends as she thought they were. She’d been thinking about those, a lot.
Brian looked Daphne in the eye. “This is a first.”
And suddenly she was smiling a little bit, and then Brian grinned, and she giggled, and suddenly they were both laughing hysterically, until she started sobbing, instead. Then Brian walked around the counter, and put an awkward arm around her shoulders and tried to be soothing. He’s a touchy person, she’d noticed, and yes, it’s true in the sense of him being sensitive and anal, but it’s more true in the sense of him being touchy-feely and always reaching out to other people—usually Justin, but even her, too, always reaching for a shoulder or something in a way that Justin never has, even though she and Justin were way closer for a long time. Not anymore, maybe. Who knows what’s happening anymore.
Brian guided her over to the couch, and she sat down with his arm still around her shoulders, and when her tears subsided, he was rubbing her arm and telling her it was going to be all right.
“How the fuck is it going to be all right?” She asked, blinking furiously.
Brian sighed, slowly. “Look—whatever you decide, I’ll support you. If you want to have an abortion, I can make arrangements, pay for it, whatever you need. And if you want to have the baby,” he paused, and turned his head to really look at her, “I can’t make you any promises as a father. But if you ever need money, I’ll be there.”
She nodded, because she’d expected as much. “I don’t know what I want to do,” she said softly.
Brian sighed again. “Yeah, well...take some time. Think about it. Talk it over with somebody.”
“Who?” She asked, half choking on the word, because there really isn’t anyone.
Brian was leaning his head back on the couch, and he rolled his neck to look at her, and his eyes said that he too was thinking ‘Justin’ and not saying it. “A shrink or something,” Brian offered finally. “I can help you find someone, if you want.”
“There are people at school,” she said, because she’d thought about talking with them but just...didn’t know what she was doing yet.
Brian nodded, and rolled his head back to stare at the ceiling again, and she looked out the giant windows. “Christ,” Brian said finally, but she didn’t say anything or respond, because he wasn’t talking to her, really. He was just thinking.
He sat up finally, said musingly, “Gus has a little brother or sister,” and stared at her abdomen in a way she wasn’t sure she liked, because his eyes said that he was thinking of this as a baby now, and not an inconvenience, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to think like that.
“What about Gus?” she asked.
Brian looked up at her, startled out his contemplation of her stomach. “What about him?”
“Does...” she started, then began again, “Is there any chance that Lindsay might want to adopt another child?”
Brian regarded her for a silent moment. “I don’t know,” he said. “They’re talking about having another kid, I think, but I don’t know.”
“I can talk to them about it, if you want,” Brian offered slowly. And she didn’t know Brian or Lindsay all that well, but even she could see the potential humor in that discussion, though it didn’t seem so funny at the moment.
“Not yet,” she said. “It was just a thought—I,” she swallowed. “I don’t know what the fuck I want to do.”
“Still,” Brian said. “I can talk to them if you want to know what your options are.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I have to decide on my own, I think. And...” She paused, “I don’t really want to tell anyone, yet.” By anyone, she meant Justin, and she could see in Brian’s eyes that he understood that, so that was good. She couldn’t imagine trying to tell Justin about this now—going over to his ratty little apartment and sitting on a crate and explaining to him that she was pregnant with his gay ex’s child, while the whole time Ethan was screeching away on his violin in the background. Maybe there was a Hallmark card for this occasion. Maybe Brian could make one for her.
They were still sitting there, frozen in individual contemplation, when there was a knock at the door. Brian looked up like a startled deer, eyeing the door as though no one had ever knocked at it before, but the person at the door didn’t wait for a response and the door suddenly slid open.
Michael walked in, jingling keys in one hand. “Hey,” he called into the loft, and then spotted Brian over on the couch. Brian stood up. “Are you ready to go? Michael asked excitedly. “The dance floor awaits.”
Brian looked again at Daphne, hesitating before he answered Michael.
“I should go,” Daphne said, standing up herself. She was still wearing her coat, so now she moved towards the door. Brian stopped her with a hand on her arm.
“You don’t have to,” he said. And she didn’t know quite what he was referring to, whether he meant just that she didn’t have to go now, or that she didn’t have to have the baby, or the abortion, or whatever.
But she just said, “I know.” And he nodded, and walked with her to the door.
“Call me,” he said, and she nodded, and started down the first step.
She could hear faint voices behind her. “What was that all about?” Michael was asking, and then she could hear the clink of what she assumed to be liquor bottles.
“Don’t worry about it,” Brian said gruffly. “Are we going to Babylon or not? Here, you drive.”
* * *
She talked with the counselor at her school—two of them, actually, but neither one of them seemed to be able to help her much. The first one seemed hell-bent on convincing her that she’d been raped, since she’d been too drunk to give proper consent, not even factoring in the E that she hadn’t mentioned. But she didn’t feel raped, and she thought it was stupid to think of it that way, and frankly, she had enough problems without adding rape on top of everything.
The second one was more help, listening while she said she didn’t know what she wanted to do a hundred different ways. But even she asked questions that were designed to help Daphne decide but just seemed utterly, ridiculously beside the point, like was she harboring a secret fantasy of getting together with the baby’s father? Because if she was, acknowledging that this was not going to happen might help her make a decision. Daphne just said no, she had no delusions about marrying Brian and settling down in the suburbs. She didn’t mention her second thought to the counselor, which is that she had had absent thoughts about her and Justin raising the baby together, but she knew those weren’t going to happen either, it was just habit, just the echoes of years of planning to marry Justin and have his children even as she knew subconsciously it was never going to happen.
* * *
So eventually she made her decision, and chickened out and let Brian take care of the arrangements, though she felt vaguely like she should be doing it herself.
Later, thinking back, the actual time in the clinic is just a blur of Brian standing in his wool business coat, holding her hand. What she really remembers is the silence of the car ride over there, how Brian ignored the ringing of his cell phone in his pocket, the movements of his hands on the steering wheel.
She has the most vivid memory of the steps in front of the clinic, not least because there was a protest by some fundamentalists going on that day. When Brian parked, she immediately tumbled herself out the passenger door, because she had the weirdest sense that if she waited, Brian would come and open her door for her—he was already walking around the front of the car to greet her. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders again as she wrapped her arms around herself, hugging her chest, and eyed the marching fundamentalists warily.
“Don’t worry about them,” Brian said. “Don’t worry about it.”
And he guided her out of the parking lot and over towards the steps, moving up the steps—God, so many steps in her life, she thought, staring at the ground and trusting Brian to lead her in the right direction—and something in his glare warned that anyone who tried to give them a flier or talk them into leaving was going to regret it. She was palpably aware of the rattiness of her clothes and the contrast with Brian’s business suit, and she felt like a middle-aged man’s dirty little secret that he came to take care of on his lunch hour, and then she realized that she was.
They were really only eight steps away from the door when one of the fundamentalists said, “Brian?” And Brian whipped his head around.
“Mom,” he said dryly. “So good to see you here.”
Daphne looked up, and saw a gray-haired woman—she assumed it was Brian’s mother—staring at her with the most astonished expression.
“Brian,” the woman said incredulously, as Brian was still frozen, “Is this girl pregnant with your child?”
Brian didn’t answer, and was suddenly back in action, moving Daphne towards the doors once again. But Brian’s mother grabbed her arm, trying to hold her away from the doors as though they were the gates of hell itself, and Daphne had a sudden vision of herself torn apart between Brian and his mother. They were like two dogs fighting over a chew toy.
But Brian simply detached his mother’s hand from Daphne’s arm, and opened the door for her, hustling her inside. Brian’s mother followed.
“Brian,” she was saying, “I simply can’t stand for this, it’s murder, the murder of my grandchild, even,” she babbled. Brian went over to the receptionist.
“Could you have this woman removed?” He asked, pointing towards his mother. “She’s disturbing us.”
The receptionist nodded nervously and quickly paged a security guard, while Brian’s mother sputtered and floundered and Daphne tried to avoid making eye contact.
The guard arrived quickly, informing Brian’s mother that she would have to leave. “But I’m his mother!” she protested, pointing at Brian. “This child is my blood!” She shouted, as the guard pulled her bodily out the doors.
Daphne closed her eyes tightly, and tried to pretend that she was somewhere else.
* * *
The next week, Justin called, all indignant that Ethan had cheated on him. And there were so many things she wanted to say, but she didn’t say any of them, because really Justin was just a baby. For a long time she had thought of him as much older than herself, more experienced, and so on, but really he’s just a baby who’s infatuated with love and doesn’t know shit about life. It’s amazing how anyone who’d been hit in the head with a baseball bat could be such a baby. It amazes Daphne that anyone who'd been hit in the head with a bat could still believe in love. Maybe everyone has to believe in something. But Daphne isn't sure what, yet.
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This was a really hard piece for me to write. Partially because I have such deeply divided personal thoughts on the subject of abortion, though I don’t really want to get into a big discussion about it. But partially just because I’m as sappy as the next girl, and I really wanted Daphne to have the baby because I firmly believe that Brian’s genes should be distributed as much as possible. Also...the look on Justin’s face when he found out Daphne was pregnant and having Brian’s baby? Priceless. Lindsay’s face, too. And Deb, to Brian, “What the fuck were you doing?” Brian: “What do you think?” Deb: (spluttering). Oh man. So much goodness in the other scenario. I may have to write it, as well.