“Just a couple of minutes ago. I was planning on walking Holly to work,” he said, kneeling in front of me. “But it’s a good thing I was early and I’m used to carrying you around, or else you’d be waking up on the cold bathroom floor right about now.” A small smile formed, but it didn’t touch his eyes.
“Do you know?” I whispered. I couldn’t say the word. I wouldn’t even let myself think it, but I could feel the word winding its way through my mind. That was all I saw when I thought about my future.
“Yeah, Lucy,” he said, grabbing my hand. “I know. Holly didn’t say anything, but it was kind of hard to ignore the positive pregnancy test on the sink.”
I bit my lip, hard, hoping it would keep the tears contained. My tried-and-true method was failing me.
Holly knelt next to Thomas. Her eyes were as red as I guessed mine were. She held her phone up. Jude’s number was on the screen, along with his picture. “You need to call Jude. He needs to know what’s going on so he can be here with you.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Not right now.”
“Yes. Yes, right now,” Holly said, holding the phone out to me. “Listen, Lucy, I know you’re scared as shit and confused as all hell, but Jude will help you get through this. You need him to help you get through this. And I know from personal experience that Jude is a good person to lean on in this kind of a situation.”
“What kind of a situation is this?” I said, twisting onto my side so I could look at her straight on. “The unplanned-pregnancy situation? Or the I’m-only-twenty-one situation? Maybe the I’m-not-married situation? And let’s not forget the my-future-is-ruined situation.” I’d been at a loss for words pre–passing out, but now I couldn’t seem to say enough.
“Mom?” LJ stuck his head out of the bedroom. “Can I come out yet?”
“No!” Thomas and Holly answered at the same time.
“I’ll go hang with the little man,” Thomas said, giving my hand a squeeze before pressing a quick kiss to Holly’s lips. “You girls don’t need me here to offer my nonwisdom anyways.”
“Aunt Luce? Are you all right?” LJ’s sweet little face was creased with concern.
The answer to that was one I couldn’t give a three-year-old, so I lied. “Yeah, LJ. I’m fine, buddy.”
“Oh. Lucy?” Thomas stopped abruptly and snapped his fingers. “For what it’s worth, I think you’d be one hell of a mom.” That same small smile appeared again, but this time it reflected in his eyes as well. Before I could reply, he was ducking inside the bedroom to occupy LJ while Holly and I discussed whatever she was planning on discussing.
The thing was, I wasn’t in a talking mood. I needed to process. I needed to think. And then maybe we could discuss.
“What’s going on up there, Lucy Larson?” Holly asked, tapping my head.
“A whole lotta everything and a whole lotta nothing,” I said, wondering whether, if I fell back to sleep, I could wake up and discover this was all one huge nightmare.
Holly sighed and plopped down on the floor next to the couch. “What are you going to do?”
I couldn’t think about that right now. I didn’t want to think about it ever. But I knew I’d have to not only face that question, but answer it.
“I don’t know.”
“And when are you going to tell Jude?” She started stroking the top of my head in a way that my mom used to when I was little and scared of the monsters I was convinced were lurking beneath my bed.
“I don’t know.”
Holly exhaled. “How do you feel?”
“I don’t know.” I was seeing a trend developing. I knew a whole lot of nothing. All I knew was that I felt confused and scared and lost.
“I know this is coming at you fast, Lucy, and I can see how terrified you are right now, but you’re strong. You’re stronger than I am, and I know this probably won’t comfort you, and maybe I’m all kinds of stupid for even saying it, but if I can raise a child, I know you can, too. You’ve got Jude, and your family and friends, and—”
“And no future,” I interrupted, seeing all those chapters I’d yet to experience in life go up in flames. How could I dance when I had a big round belly? How could I dance and travel the world with a baby on my hip? What had I worked my ass off for if, one year before I was set to graduate from a prestigious dance school, I wound up knocked up?
“How can you say you’ve got no future?” Holly said, looking insulted. “You’ve got the kind of future most people dream of.”
“A future most people used to dream about.”
“Wait. Are you saying that because you’re going to have a baby, your entire life is ruined?”
It felt like that was what I was saying, but I was just too damned confused to be sure.
“Because, yeah, a baby’s going to change things, but it’s not going to end your life.”
I wasn’t sure I believed her.
“I love that you’re here for me and are trying to make me feel better, Holly. I really do. But I kind of just need some time to be alone and sort some shit out,” I said. “Okay?”
She looked like she wanted to argue with me but managed to hold herself back. “I’ll have Thomas take LJ tonight so you can have some peace and quiet,” she said. “And then tomorrow you and I are going to find a doctor and make an appointment, because we don’t know if you’re four weeks along or four months along.” I about fainted again, thinking I could be four months pregnant. Surely life wouldn’t be that cruel. I needed as much time as possible to wrap my mind around this grenade that had just gone off in my life, and five and a half months just wasn’t going to cut it.
“And after that, we’ll figure out a way to break the news to Jude and—”
“Holly.” I grabbed her arm. “Too much, too fast. I need some breathing room.”
“You’re right,” she said, raising her hands. “I’m just going to give you one giant hug”—she wrapped her arms around me and gave me one ginormous hug—“and then I’ll round up the boys and we’ll be out of here.”
“Thanks, Holly,” I said, curling deeper into the couch. “For everything.”
“You know, Lucy, for what it’s worth, I’m on the same page as Thomas,” she said, heading down the hallway. “I know you’ll be an awesome mom.”
I tried to return her smile, but I couldn’t do it.
All I could think about was shattered dreams. All I could see was Jude’s shocked face when I told him I was pregnant.
I was sobbing silently into my pillow before the door had closed behind Holly, Thomas, and LJ.
I’d lived on saltines and lemon-lime soda for a week. My stomach was either unable or unwilling to keep anything else down. Those were the first things I asked for when I boarded the plane Sunday morning, and the flight attendant had given me a knowing smile, told me, “It gets better,” and kept the crackers coming.
I’d made it through the entire flight having to take only one lavatory vomit break, and thankfully the driver who’d met me at the airport to drive me to Qualcomm Stadium kept a paper bag in the backseat for emergency purposes.
I’d had an emergency.
It was Jude’s first game of the season, and back when he’d purchased the ticket for me, he’d wanted to make it for the entire weekend. But I thought I’d be dancing lead in a school production Saturday night, and I had class Monday morning, so I was doing a round trip from New York to San Diego and back in one day.
I hadn’t danced lead last night. I hadn’t even gone and cheered on the girl who’d been my understudy. I was in something of a “delicate” state.
After setting an appointment for me, driving me there, and basically pushing me into the waiting room, Holly made sure I saw an ob-gyn on Thursday. After some poking, prodding, and a quick ultrasound, she was able to determine how far along I was.
Almost four months to the day.
Just when I thought I didn’t have any more tears left inside me, that day in the examination room I proved myself wrong. I still hadn’t said anything to Jude. In fact, I’d been trying to avoid his calls all week. I just didn’t trust that if he got me on the phone for very long, he wouldn’t be able to figure out what was the matter with me. So we texted a lot, and the timing worked out well, because he was crazy-busy getting ready for his first big game.
That was how I’d convinced Holly to keep her mouth shut when we left my appointment on Thursday. She insisted Jude needed to know. Like, now. She said he’d need just as much time as I would to get used to the idea of being parents in less than six months. That had, of course, started a whole new batch of tears. I blamed my emotions on the hormones, but I knew they played only a very small role.
I told Holly I couldn’t tell Jude a couple of days before he was playing his first game as starting quarterback in the NFL that I was pregnant. Talk about messing with a guy’s game. Holly had seen the reason in that, but insisted I tell him the week after, or she threatened she would tell him herself.
I’d bought time, but not much. While I didn’t want to mess with Jude’s head right before the game, it was more a matter of not knowing what I’d say to him. A girl just didn’t discover she was pregnant at twenty-one and get used to the idea in a few days’ time. I’d gone through about every stage of coping: fear, anger, depression, uncertainty, and everything in between. Occasionally I’d have a twinge of excitement—I was having Jude’s baby, after all—but then I’d have a reality check. I’d gone on an emotional roller-coaster ride in one week’s time, and I was exhausted.
I was so tired, I passed out the second half of the ride to the stadium. The driver had to wake me up and remind me where I was. It was official. I was a wreck.
As I was making my way through the gates, I got a text from Jude. ARE YOU HERE YET?
Following the usher to wherever they stuffed the wives and girlfriends of the players, I texted him back. JUST GOT HERE. U NERVOUS?
I smiled when I got his reply. NOT ANYMORE.
Following the usher into an elevator, I punched in my reply. SO PROUD OF YOU, BABE. KICK SOME ASS OUT THERE.
His response came instantly. RIGHT BACK AT YOU. WILL DO.
LOVE YA, JUDE.
LOVE YA, LUCE.
I didn’t know how he had time to be texting when the game was set to start in a few minutes, but I’d known from the beginning that Jude did what Jude wanted to.
It felt good to have a smile on my face. A real one. It might not have won any blue ribbons for biggest or best, but it was a genuine one. That smile ran away the moment the usher walked me into a big room lined with windows. The football field seemed like it was a mile below us.
Had I mistaken a nightclub for a football stadium?
Most of the same women I’d been hanging with on and off all summer, and a few new faces, were milling about the room, drinking their champagne or sparkling water, wearing dresses and heels. They had on their fancy jewelry and their evening makeup.