In the past month and a half, I’d been slapped by my mother, kicked out of my parent’s house, forced to find a way to make a wage to support both Marta and myself, all while still attending school full-time and keeping my grades up so I’d have an acceptable transcript when I decided to go to college. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a decent night’s sleep, between worrying about Marta’s health, having my own mini-mental breakdowns, and spending time with Bradley because I really didn’t want him to feel neglected through this whole thing.
All of that was nothing in comparison to researching adoption agencies. Marta was doing most of the figurative heavy lifting on that research, but she wanted my input on everything. “Two twins are better than one”—she teased. But I knew she was anxious—worried that she was making the wrong choices. She wanted me to be her back up.
The truth was—I didn’t want to give that kid up. Marta and I had been a unit for so long, even when people forgot we were twins, we still were. Especially with the absence of the baby’s father, I’d come to start thinking of it as “we’re having a kid” rather than “Marta’s having a kid.” Frankly, I’d started to get excited about the thought of being an aunt, of helping to raise that kid, watching him or her grow older.
I just have to get over it, I thought to myself. It is Marta’s kid, it is Marta’s decision, and it’s not like this is my only chance to have a family. Someday, I can have a kid of my very own. I just need to be there for my sister.
“We could raise the baby,” Bradley suggested softly.
I gave a little jump. I was sitting on the couch, curled into Bradley’s arms watching TV, and I’d still almost forgotten he was there, I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts. So much for making sure he didn’t feel neglected. It slowly sunk in what he had said, and the only response I could come up with was “What?”
Bradley kissed me softly on the temple before continuing. “It’s breaking your heart to give up that child, I can tell. And to be honest, I’d be a bit sad to see the kid go. I’ve done some research, and in this state, we can adopt once we turn twenty-one. We could get married, make a deal with Marta, raise him like he’s ours, and adopt him legally as soon as we’re able. It would take the direct pressure off Marta and put it on our shared shoulders, while still keeping the kid in the family. It’d be tough, your parents would still hate us, and we’d have to pinch an awful lot of pennies, but we could make it work. I know my parents would help out. Ma and Dad have already started trying to dote on you two like you’re giving them a grandkid. So—why not?”
I sat up and turned on the couch to look him in the face. He was serious and steady. I couldn’t believe my ears. “Brad, you’re eighteen. I couldn’t ask–I won’t ask you to give up your future for a mistake you weren’t even a part of.”
“You’re not asking, I’m offering. And, maybe this is some stupid mistake, and we’re headed for divorce before we’re even engaged, but it’s absolutely breaking my heart to watch you look through those parent profiles. I’ve been involved with this pregnancy from the early days, and well, I think it’s a win-win.” Bradley shrugged and offered me a smile. “I can see those gears turning in your head, Avery Andersson, but I want you to promise me that you will think long and hard before accepting or rejecting my offer. Do we have a deal?”
In that moment, I was overwhelmed with love for Bradley. And maybe it was just stupid eighteen-year-old puppy love, maybe it was all a lie, and maybe in two years I’d be single and childless and so glad we dodged a bullet, but in that moment, sitting there on the couch in his arms, boy, did it feel great to me. “I will think long and hard before rejecting your offer. I will even talk to Marta about it so she can remind me it was her idea for us to elope to Vegas on our eighteenth birthday.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Bradley broke into a goofy grin, “We were eloping on your eighteenth birthday?” I nodded and he made a ‘tsk’ noise. “Well, Avery, that’s a story I think I need to hear.” So I snuggled in close to Bradley’s side again and started the story.