Marta’s pregnancy had consumed our Christmas break. We dealt with the ramifications of being kicked out of our house, including looking for apartments to stay in and trying to decide if we could still afford the colleges we’d been looking into. I was still practically shaking with the rage of the baby’s father’s response to Marta. Discussions about whether or not Marta wanted to raise the child or put her up for adoption were still in their infancy. I’d slept in my boyfriend’s bed with my sister, a guest bedroom with my boyfriend, and a couch when I didn’t want to deal with either of them for a couple of hours. Since our birthday, I can honestly say that I didn’t think of much else.
It was such a culture shock to go back to school. It never occurred to me that people there didn’t know what had happened. Other than the guidance counselor we’d spoken to the other day about what we needed to do now that our parents were no longer our legal guardians who knew we’d left home, and presumably the father of the baby who knew about the pregnancy, no one knew a thing.
Marta was in her element. She smiled and laughed and hung out with her group like nothing had happened. She discussed the break like it’d be perfectly relaxing. She complained offhand about an argument with our parents as if it was nothing, not an incident that left us practically homeless and her in bed for the better part four days.
“How does she do that?” Bradley asked, turning to me. He looked as exhausted as I felt. We’d been in school for almost ten minutes, and it already felt like too much for me. I was so ill prepared for this.
“I don’t know. I’ve never felt so different.”
“Right.” Bradley rubbed a hand over his face and leaned in to give me a kiss. “I’ll see you in study hall?” I nodded and he went his way.
I found it really hard to concentrate on school. In spite of my promise to Marta, any time a boy talked in class I couldn’t help but wonder if he was the jackass that cut my sister a check to cover up a mistake that was half his. Somewhere in the middle of physics, it occurred to me that my parents weren’t going be asking to see my grades anymore, so why did I give a rats ass about science? The only class I suddenly felt the need to really understand was “Independent Living” the P.C. name for Home Ec class. It felt really important that I knew how to do to my own taxes all of a sudden.
At lunch, Marta found me and told me she was going to go back to Natalie’s house after school. She was going to tell the group there about the pregnancy, and if anyone asked me the father was one of Momma’s friend’s sons from the summer camp in Maine. Once she told the group, she was going to work out a plan to get it subtly told to Nathan Carpenter, editor of the school paper and one of the biggest gossips known to man. “It’ll be everywhere by the end of the week,” Marta said gravely, “Like ripping off a Band-Aid. Just thought you should know if you wanted to brace yourself.”
I warned Bradley as well. He teased that the people who couldn’t tell the difference tonight would probably think I was the pregnant one considering how I was the one with a boyfriend and all. I laughed at his joke but ended up falling asleep on my arm during the hour-long study hall. It was a sign of how rough I looked that the teacher let me sleep until the bell rang and didn’t report me for after school study hall.
As I got into Bradley’s car at the end of the day, I’d barely sat down before I started to cry. Bradley took my hand carefully but didn’t say anything. “There isn’t even a baby yet,” I said pathetically before I allowed myself to openly sob.