After the robbery, we stopped by a coffee shop to talk about the pregnancy. I had an inclination something was wrong or that Jenna was hiding something. But a pregnancy? No way. Not my Jenna. It turns out that those closest to us hide the most important secrets, and it's hidden in plain sight. The snow continued to fall, and the Christmas music warmed my soul. I loved this time of year, and the new memories of robbing the rich resonated well within me. A waiter waves us to a table. We looked into each other's eyes, not knowing what to say. So I said the first thing that came to mind.
"Please tell me Robert's not the father," I said.
"And that's what you've been hiding from me?" I could handle Jenna hiding small things from me. Things such as going to a friend's house instead of an office meeting, something little, but a pregnancy? I don't know if I can handle this. "You can't tell me whether you slept with Robert?"
"It's not like I knew he was your brother."
"So, you've met him before." I traced her eyes as I sturred my coffee.
"When I saw him at the hotel, I remembered his face. But you've never introduced me to your family. So how was I supposed to know?" Jenna said. "Besides, it's not like we were on the best terms. I mean, I was thinking about leaving you," Jenna said and took a sip of her coffee. "You never paid attention to me. What was I supposed to do?"
"Oh, you would turn this around on me." I pursed my lips and gave a dismissive hand wave. "So now you sleeping with other men is my fault?"
"Well, maybe if you cared more about me than your damn job, the baby would be yours."
I leaned forward. "I've been providing for us since—"
"Bullshit!" Jenna said. "Don't even go there. My father paid for everything. And now that he's fallen on hard times and needs our help, you pretend you're this self-righteous social justice warrior."
"I didn't know you felt this way." I folded my arms across my chest and slumped in my chair. "It's not that I cared more about work or school; I was scared of losing you. I was scared you'd love someone else more than me. I was waiting for you to leave."
"And you thought it best not to tell me?" Jenna said. "You gave me the cold shoulder for too long, and so I looked elsewhere. And now, I'm sorry. I feel ashamed of myself."
"Well, you should feel bad. Besides, I wanted to prove I loved you. I wanted you to love me for me, without me trying too hard."
Jenna held her head in her hands. "This miscommunication shit is driving me crazy."
"You and me both," I said. "Look, Jenna, I love you." I slid my hand across the table to clasp her hand. "It's going to be okay."
"You don't know that."
"But you don't. Besides, what about the baby? I mean, what if the baby isn't yours?"
"Well, people have to have sex to make a baby, right? We haven't slept together in a year, Jenna."
"Don't patronize me. Besides, whose fault is that?"
"And this is my fault, too?"
"I wore lingerie for you, but you'd read a book over having sex with me." Jenna waved her hands. "Why do you think I was getting ready to leave you!" Jenna shouted.
I looked around the cafe and placed my finger on my lips. "There are people in here. Don't be rude," I said. "Okay, think about this—"
"And you're keeping it, right?"
"Wasn't planning on it."
"Although I'm pro-choice in certain situations, this isn't one of them, Jenna."
"You'd raise someone else's baby? What's gotten into you?"
"You're not having an abortion. You have to have it."
"It's my decision to make."
"It is, but I'm telling, no, I'm begging you not to."
"I'll sleep on it."
"Besides Robert, who else could be the father?"
Jenna lowered her head and then took another sip of her mocha. "I don't know."
"And you called me irresponsible?" I pushed my coffee out of the way and folded my hands.
"See, this is why I don't tell you anything."
"No, this is why you should tell me everything."
"I went out with the girls one night, and at a bar, I met this tall dude, and we connected. It just happened. It wasn't planned. We did it in the—"
"Enough! I don't need details," I said. "What I need is the truth. Does your dad know?"
"Why do you think Dad went back to gambling? It's hard for me to see him return to his old devices. He'd been clean for ten years. Dad's never had a problem with alcohol or drugs, but gambling consumed him. He's on the verge of losing everything. I made sure the money you gave him went to the house payments. He didn't know it, though, because I took the cash while he was asleep and went straight to the bank."
"Sounds like you hurt the both us of badly. What were you thinking?"
"I wasn't. And don't tell Dad I told you this, but he thought you'd leave me."
"Wait, your dad—Mr. who hates me—believed I'd leave you?"
Jenna squeezed back tears and nodded. "He said I'd be another single mother, raising a bastard daughter."
"Daughter?" I leaned forward, bug-eyed. "You know the sex of the child?"
"Because of conservative bullshit, I had to have an ultrasound and see it on the monitor. They want to guilt you into having the child. I glanced and felt something, what I'd felt, I don't know. Something's growing inside me; a little person. But it can't survive on its own yet."
"We're raising the baby, and that's final," I said.
"You really mean that? You're not just saying that and then leave me a single mother, right?"
I pulled out a moderately expensive ring I'd bought last week intending to pop the question. I slid the ring on her finger. "Believe me now?"
Jenna covered her mouth, smiling, and crying at the same time. "I do now," Jenna said.
YOU ARE READING
Guilt Is For The GuiltyShort Story
(Editing!) On the way to Jenna's grandmother's funeral, Ben, her boyfriend, have a tire blowout along a highway with little traffic. Jenna and Ben argued over who was to blame. An old hotel rests five miles from the car. While there, Ben witnesses a...