“Do you think that if I gave up the kid, Momma would take us back?” Marta asked, curled up in Bradley’s bed. She hadn’t left it except for a few minutes at a time since Momma had kicked us out. Bradley had moved into the guest room without complaint or comment. The Wilsons told us that we could stay with them for as long as we needed to get our footing, no explanation needed, but I told Bradley to keep his parents as informed as he could. I spent my nights going back and forth between Bradley and Marta, deciding who needed me more at any given moment. I knew we had to get out of The Wilson’s house soon, we could only impose on their hospitality for so long, no matter what his parents said or how Bradley teased it was nice to always have me under the same roof.
But, before we could do any of that, we had to get Marta back on her feet. I had to get her thinking happy enough thoughts that she felt like she could get out of bed again. Preferably within the next three days so we could go back to school without missing any days.
“Oh, School,” I didn’t realize I’d said it aloud until Marta lifted her head and stared at me. I shifted uncomfortably in the bean bag chair. “Sorry. Got distracted. What was your question again?”
“No—what were you saying about school?” Marta sat up, pulling the blankets around her waist some more.
“I was just thinking about what we needed to do about school. Or, really, to make Momma and Dad no longer our legal guardians—if anything since we’re technically eighteen now.” I gave a little shake and offered a smile. It was good to see Marta sitting up, and I wanted to embrace it while we had it. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll put it on the to-do list. What did you ask me?”
“I was just thinking. Do you think if I gave up the baby, Momma would take us back? I mean, we’d probably have to go to one of those overzealous bible camps for a week or two, be reborn in the lord or whatever it is that Momma’s always going on about—but I think it might work?”
I moved from the bean bag to the edge of the bed. “Marta? Do you want to give up the baby? Do you want to go back to Momma?”
“I don’t want to be an adult. I don’t want to deal with any of this. I don’t want to worry about legal guardianship. I don’t want to worry about imposing on the Wilsons, finding our own place to live, and what we’d have to buy to take care of this kid. I don’t want to drag you down with me, but I don’t want to do this alone.” Marta laid back down into the blankets, staring up at the ceiling, and I let out a little groan. I was hoping I’d be able to get her out of bed, get her to take a proper shower, maybe a meal that wasn’t served to her on a tray.
“You’re not dragging me down, and of course I’m with you all the way. But, if you’ll forgive me the cliché, it takes two to tango, Marta. Have you tried to talk to the father? What are his thoughts on all of this?”
For the first time in all of this—Marta looked angry. Truly properly angry, red in the face and ready to hit someone if the opportunity struck, and I didn’t know what else to do with that. “I don’t want to talk about the father.”
“Marta?” My voice was embarrassingly weak.
“I told him. I told him and he called me a whore. He told me I sleep around so often how could I be sure it was him. He told me he wasn’t going to pay for some other kid’s bastard child just because I decided I have a vendetta against him and want to ruin his life. When I assured him that he was the father and offered to take a paternity test if it would make him more comfortable, he seemed to realize this was real, he wrote me a check for three thousand dollars in exchange for me denying it later, leaving him alone, and never mentioning it again. Suffice it to say, I want nothing to do with that boy ever again.” By the time Marta was finished with her little rant, she was practically yelling.
Do you ever get so mad that you don’t even feel angry anymore? That’s what I felt like in that moment, strangely calm in spite of it all. I felt, of all things, cold. Like someone had slid a piece of ice down the back of my shirt. I sat up a little straighter, and all I wanted to do was kill this guy. I didn’t even think I’d feel that guilty about it. “Who is he, Marta?”
Marta took a couple deep breaths, sat up, and took both my hands hers, and pulled them into her lap. It was like when the other team cheated causing Marta to lose the Lacrosse State Championships. It was only about half as calming. “Avery. No.”
“It’s his kid too, he owes you. It’s going to take more than three thousand dollars to raise it.”
“Avery.” Marta repeated, squeezing my hands tightly, “Avery. No.”
“It’s okay. I’m not angry.” My voice was level. I offered her a smile. “I just want to know who he is. I want to avoid him.” I even slouched a little to help sell it. Anyone else, Momma, Dad, Bradley, probably would have believed it. Marta didn’t waver, not even for a second.
“I’m going to go take a shower,” Marta countered, “I’m going to take a shower, and then maybe we can borrow Bradley’s car and go out to lunch. Or, I guess he can come too if he wants. Either way, we should get started on that to-do list you’ve been making. Okay?” When I didn’t answer, Marta gave my hands a little shake, “Okay?”
“Okay. I’m still not happy though—don’t think for a second that I want to let this drop. This is your baby’s father.”
“Which I am going to get to regret for the rest of my life, privately. Avery, we’re in this together as long as you want to stand by me, and I will take your advice and opinion into consideration on every other decision that has to be made. But this time, it’s my relationship, it’s my child, and it’s my decision. Can you respect that?” Marta crawled out of bed and stood over me, literally having the higher ground.
“I’m still really angry.”
Marta smiled. “I’d be insulted if you weren’t. I need you to promise me that you aren’t going to figure anything out, that you are going to harass people behind my back. You can rant and rave to Bradley, you can write all kinds of nasty things about my mystery man in your journal. You can do whatever you want in your own space, but I need you to promise.”
I didn’t want to, but Marta was right. Technically it was her decision. It was a stupid decision, it was going to haunt her, she was likely to regret it, but it was hers to make. “I promise. But I reserve the right to re-discuss the decision with you three times.”
Marta took my hand and shook it. “Deal. For now, I’m going to shower. Go talk to Brad, make some plans. I’ll see you in a half hour. I stink.”