For the next few months, life was the closest I’d ever come to hell. I was always aware in that way that children are that my parents did a lot for me, eased everything for me. I didn’t realize just how much that was until suddenly Marta and I were fending for ourselves. Marta was handling school as best as she could—but she was under a lot of emotional stress. Several of her friends had stopped talking to her, and she’d attracted a lot of unwanted attention from people who weren’t kind enough to leave it well enough alone. Because she was dealing with that, the end of her morning sickness, and the fact that she was growing progressively bigger, she spent most of her time not at school exhausted, at the doctors, or slightly freaking out.
So—I took responsibility for our budget and household. About a week after we went back to school—Marta and I found an apartment we could afford about fifteen minutes away from our parents’ house. Well—I say that we could afford—in reality it was a couple hundred bucks more than we could afford—but Mr. Wilson had a friend of a friend who owed him a couple favors, and the landlord agreed that we could pay a reduced rent for a year, so that we could get our footing—or at the very least get out of high school. I tried to convince him that it wasn’t necessary, but Mrs. Wilson had some very strong opinions about parents who abandoned their children in times of need. She tried to convince us to stay with them until the baby was born, but neither Marta nor I were particularly comfortable with that thought—So Mrs. Wilson insisted we accept her husband’s help in finding a place.
Once we had a place to live, the next order of business was trying to find a source of income. Our savings—and the check from the deadbeat dad—would last us a while, but I knew I would be far more comfortable if we had a little money coming in as well, so we didn’t drain our savings down quite as quickly. I tried to quit volunteering at the library—but once my supervisor got wind of why I was leaving she offered me a position in the Library Café on weekends and one or two nights during the week, and told me that after I graduated we could discuss turning it into a full time position. Marta couldn’t really find any kind of steady work—being pregnant, a teenager, and overstressed, but Marie convince her mom to hire Marta to watch Marie’s siblings for their date night every Friday. Marie told me after a promise to never tell Marta, but Marie’s parents were paying her an extra three dollars an hour, taking the extra money out of Marie’s allowance. Marie was in on the secret of the baby’s real father and his reaction. “I don’t know for sure, of course, since Marta won’t say, but I think I encouraged her to hook up with the baby’s father. I know she won’t just take money from me—so let me help out.” My pride wanted to say no—but my intimate knowledge of our budget books let me say okay.
After all, we had a lot to think about. Rent and electricity bills were monthly. Water was quarterly. We had to get food every week, and making sure that Marta was getting everything she needed to keep her and the baby healthy wasn’t exactly the cheapest grocery shopping in the world. Then there was the bus, or giving Bradley a couple of bucks for driving us places—and Marta’s doctor bills—and all of this was before the baby was born. We’d need so much more afterwards.
I was starting to look up prices for diapers, baby furniture, and clothes to make an estimate when Marta sank into the chair opposite from me. I was still weighing the options of cheaper cloth diapers with the inevitable ick factor in my head, so I almost missed it when Marta frowned at me and said “I think we should look into adoption agencies.”