“What is going on, Sol?” I asked the friend who’d rushed into my house to talk to me.
“Oh, Kassie,” she exhaled. “What am I going to do?” She sat on the large white sofa in my living room. Josh, my boyfriend, had told me that she was crying her heart out, but I couldn’t believe him at first. I almost didn’t notice Marisol’s little boy sitting on the carpet near his mother, playing with some sort of pink piggy toy.
Something must be really wrong.
Marisol was one of my best friends. We went to school together, where we met the rest of our circle of friends—Denise, Natalie, and Laura. The five of us have been almost inseparable since then. Surprisingly, Marisol and I became good friends regardless of our different cultural ancestry. Marisol’s parents were both Mexican, while my mother was Russian and my father African-American. Out of our group of friends, we had the most similar cultural traditions, a trait which strengthened our bond. It pained me to see her in such distress.
“Sol, sorry to interrupt,” said my handsome boyfriend. “I thought it might be a good idea to take Micah out for a little bit. There’s a park nearby I’ve been wanting to check out, and I think he’d be the best company for that. What do you say, buddy?”
Josh could be so thoughtful. He wasn’t only a beautiful man on the outside, but little by little in just shy of the last six months we’d been together, I’d discovered that he was even more gorgeous on the inside.
“I dunno,” the toddler responded. “Mommy’s tummy hurt. I don’t want to leave her alone.”
“What if I make mommy some tea for her tummy?” I offered Micah. “That way you can go explore with Josh while I help mommy feel better.”
The three-year-old still looked dubiously at his mother. It was easy to see that he didn’t want to leave her in such distress while he went to have fun at the park.
“It’s okay, papi,” Marisol told him. “I’m sure aunty Kassie will fix the perfect tea for me, and you can enjoy the park with Josh.”
“Peppa can stay with you, Mommy.” I didn’t understand what Micah was talking about until he gave Sol the pink piggy and took Josh’s hand.
“Come on, buddy. Let’s leave the girls have some tea,” Josh told Micah as they walked towards the door. “On our way back, we might hunt some dinner. How do you feel about pizza?”
Micah’s face lit up as they closed the door behind them. Why did he have to mention pizza? I loved how he didn’t want me to work too hard by cooking for everyone, but I actually enjoyed it—especially if he helped me out with the dishes. We needed to talk about his tendency to order takeout.
But first things first. What was going on with Marisol?
“Okay, Sol, what’s going on?” I asked once more. “I really doubt your tummy is hurting.”
‘Sol’ was an apt nickname for my friend, especially because of her shiny personality. However, lately, our beautiful brunette friend had looked somehow dull and exhausted (which I blamed on her becoming a mother immediately after marrying). Now, she arrived at my house in tears in the middle of the evening on a warm August evening. It wasn’t like her.
“I’m pregnant,” Sol spat out.
Oh, God. Again?
I had to remind myself that we were adults; we weren’t in high school. We weren’t teenagers. We were closer to thirty every minute. There was nothing to be afraid of. She was happily married to the love of her life, Michael. They had a beautiful house and Michael’s job provided for everything their family needed. She was a wonderful mother; Micah absolutely adored her. Her little toddler had just started preschool, which allowed her to start working again, and she loved to work! So I didn’t understand what she was so concerned about.
Until I realized that she’d just started working again. Something she’d mentioned to me that she felt was lacking in her life.
“Don’t worry, honey,” I told her. “Everything’s going to be fine.”
“No, Kassandra. It won’t,” she countered. “Micah started going to preschool a few weeks ago, and that allowed me to go back to work. Now I have to quit!”
Marisol might have been disguised as a loving mother for a couple years, and she sincerely was a hundred percent crazy about her baby and family, but she was also the best financial manager in the city.
As soon as Marisol had finished her bachelor’s degree, she’d been offered a position in one of the most prestigious banks in the state of California. It took her some years working as an accountant and later in the loan office to be offered the position. Sol worked very hard for it and she finally felt fulfilled in her role while making financial reports and budgets, managing and auditing the organization’s profits and losses. She also supervised accountants and financial analysts, and as a result she was paid over a hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year.
She’d met her then-future husband Michael at that bank. The gringo—as Sol’s family constantly called him—who stole her heart. He was at the moment a financial manager as well, but recently he’d also been working as an analyst (and I was sure he was making a ridiculous amount of money for it).
In the US, money seemed to be something very personal, it being taboo to discuss incomes with others. In Mexican culture, as with Marisol’s family, the title and position one had were more important than the money one made. In my family’s Russian culture, it wasn’t a big deal to discuss money—the money you earned was a direct reflection of how much your boss valued your skills.
Michael’s current job also required him to give individual advice to clients and businesses on investments—as in stocks and bonds. For that reason, he needed to work long hours on occasion, as I imagined was the case today.
“Oh, honey. No,” I said, “that might not be the case. Being pregnant doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to quit your job. You know this.”
“Come on, Kassie. You know my family better than I do,” she commented. “They pressured me during my entire first pregnancy to quit my job and stay at home. How do you think it’s going to go this time? They’ll all be like, ‘You need to quit, mija. My grandchildren need their mami at home to take care of them. The gringo can cover all of your needs, he’s like the money doctor. Why do you need to work, too?’ I can hear them right now.”
“Well, yeah, I can picture your parents harassing you about it.” I had to agree; those particular Mexicans were nothing if not traditional. “But that’s something you have to discuss with Michael and not with them. Sure, they’re your family, but Michael, Micah, the new baby, and you are the ones who really matter. What does Michael say?”
She sat really straight for a moment and looked at the floor while she twisted her hands. That couldn’t be good. What exactly was going on?
“I don’t know if I want to keep the baby,” she whispered.
Oh, that was something completely different and out of my league.
My friends always came to me because of my great planning skills. I’d planned all kinds of events for them, including each of their weddings. It kind of just seemed a natural thing for all of us, given my Masters of Business in Procedure Management. I dedicated my professional life to looking for new ways in which a person or business could improve their development—in their costs, errors, delays, and a bunch of other details. Creating process solutions on a broader, cross-functional, organizational-wide scale to drive overall performance was exactly my thing. But dealing with people’s feelings and emotions was not something I did well. People skills weren’t exactly easy for me—that was more of a Natalie thing. Of course, Natalie would be completely against an abortion, and that was probably why Sol had come to me instead.
“So, you haven’t discussed anything with Michael. How far along are you?” If she wanted my help, I needed more information.
“I’m pretty sure I got pregnant in Bora Bora,” Marisol answered.
I had to hold my breath after her declaration. I felt completely guilty about her pregnancy now. I was the one who’d suggested they take that trip to Bora Bora as a second honeymoon.
“Oh, Kassie, don’t be silly,” Sol was completely able to read my expression. “It wasn’t like you forced me to have unprotected sex with my husband.”
No, I didn’t.
“So, you’re two months pregnant?” The math helped distract me from my guilt. I’d just been doing them a favor by sending them on the trip. Plus, it was Laura’s request that there were no babies at her wedding.
Less than a year ago, Laura’s ordeal of a marriage started. She proved to be the most challenging bride of all my friends. The wedding was nothing if not interesting; not only did Laura go Bridezilla on all of us, but she picked the most extravagant and expensive place to get married. She decided to have her wedding reception in Bora Bora, the pearl of the Pacific. This little island was often called the most beautiful in the world, with its jagged green peaks cascading down to white sand beaches and shimmering blue lagoons. We all stayed in the hotel Laura had chosen for the wedding, with its Polynesian style bungalows showcasing natural materials and forms inspired in the tropical setting.
Laura had just so happened to marry Edward, an ex-boyfriend of mine who, up until recently, I’d blamed for all my romantic problems. As you can imagine, that caused a bit of a fight between Laura and myself, since it took me way too long to come clean with her. I did it in the worst possible moment and we made a spectacle during her wedding. In retaliation, Laura had given me a taste of my own medicine, angrily disclosing some shocking news about my boyfriend I could have done without hearing. I’d almost ruined everything at their wedding, but thankfully, Josh and I were able to work things out and were now in the bubbly honeymoon stage of our relationship—talking, sharing and having great sex. It couldn’t get any better.
So somehow, during all of that, one of my friends found herself unexpectedly pregnant in the most unfortunate moment for her. I had a lot of experience in odd love triangles and almost ruining weddings, but I knew nothing about pregnancy. How could I possibly be of any help to her?
“Yep, two months,” Marisol replied bringing me back to the present. She wasn’t crying anymore, but the sad emotion was still there, traced with fear and confusion.
We’d been through this together once before—one other time she didn’t think she could keep the baby. Fortunately, back then, the matter was solved in a matter of days and without regret.
“So there’s probably a lot of options for you right now, though I’m not that well-informed,” I said. I couldn’t think of anything else to say, and I didn’t know what else I could do for her but listen. I stood up from the couch and extended my hand. “Come on,” I said, she took my hand and let me help her up. “I promised Micah I would make you tea, and I have to keep that promise. We can continue our conversation over the kitchen counter.”
“Sure,” Sol answered.
“But promise me something, Sol.” I’d made this request before and I was about to make it again. “Promise me you’ll talk to Michael before you make anything definite. Even if your decision is final, please, talk to Michael about it.”
My apartment had an open plan. It wasn’t big—just big enough. I had it all decorated in light neutral colors, white dominating most of the space. Marisol had taken the pink piglet with her and placed it on the marble counter while we had some tea and cookies.
She was calmer after she revealed her true intentions to me, but we didn’t discuss her options much more; we both knew that this was a decision she had to make on her own.
An hour later, Josh and Micah returned. We knew they’d already had dinner, since anyone could see red thick tomato sauce smudged all over the toddler’s face. The boys had hunted some chicken soup and green salad for us girls, relieving me of my cooking duties.
After having her soup, Marisol said her farewells. Michael texted her that he was on his way home, and she wanted to be there to greet him. She took some leftover pizza and salad for Michael’s dinner. Josh helped her out with Micah, who’d fallen asleep watching cartoons in my room.
It was a surprise to see Josh so helpful with the rowdy toddler. I didn’t know he liked children, and it surprised me even more that he was actually good with them. I finished cleaning the kitchen, and Josh came back to hug me from behind. “How about I rub your shoulders before I go home?”
“That sounds wonderful,” I said as he stepped back so I could continue with my last task.
“You’re really tense, babe,” he informed me. “What had Sol so upset?” He moved away and leaned against the kitchen counter.
He crossed his arms before commenting, “I thought that would be something to be happy about. I know I’d love to knock you up.” My boyfriend said naturally, as if we’d had a conversation of the sort recently—or at all.
We’d only dated for six months, so the baby subject had never been discussed before. To be honest, I’d never in my life even thought about babies. I was about to ask Josh what exactly he meant by his comment when he distracted me with another question.
“Michael isn’t happy about her being pregnant, or what?”
“Michael doesn’t know yet,” I explained, doing my best not to show the panic I felt at his mention of us having babies. I wasn’t ready for that at all, but this was really about Sol and Michael, not us. “And, please, don’t tell him. I probably shouldn’t have told you anything.”
“Sure, that’s for them to talk about.” At least we agreed on that, but I was still stock on his revelation.
“Josh,” I asked as calmly as I could manage, trying to control the arrhythmia suddenly overtaking my body, “what exactly did you mean by the knocking-me-up comment?” I stopped wiping the microwave so I could look at him and size up his reaction.
“Nothing much,” he nonchalantly answered, his gray eyes clear with honesty. “Just a silly comment.” Then he crossed his arms over the broad chest I loved so much and gazed back at me as if he was gauging my own reaction in return.
I didn’t know if he’d meant anything by those words or if he was just trying to shake off the whole topic—maybe because of the doubtful vibes I was sending his way. I turned and walked to the sink, rinsing the cloth I used to clean the kitchen and placing it next to the wide metallic bowl. “You’d like to have a baby.” It was meant to be a question, but I expressed it as a statement.
“Sure. Why not?” Josh answered with complete honesty. “I’d like to have a baby in the future.”
I exhaled deeply. That made me feel a little better, even if he hadn’t said he wanted to have a baby with me in that future. I walked to the living room, made myself comfortable on the light couch, and took a few seconds to think clearly.
It was rational for anyone to think about having children in the future, wasn’t it?
“I didn’t even know you liked children,” I said. He joined me on the sofa and turned me around so he could massage my shoulders as he’d promised.
“I didn’t know it myself, so of course you didn’t know.” Josh cleared his throat while his hands did their magic. “I thought my nephew was the only kid I liked, and he’s older now. Playing videogames with him is the highlight of our relationship. But I’ve been spending some time with babies recently. Nat’s girl is so cute, there are no words to describe her. And Micah—he’s super fun. We had a good time together today.
“My sister got pregnant in her early twenties,” he continued, “so I was still a teenager when Elliot was born. I guess that’s why I didn’t have that much time to enjoy him. He’s twelve now—a real teen nightmare. Of course, being the cool uncle and playing Playstation with him always helps.”
“Oh.” I mean, what else could I say? I knew so little about his family. I already knew he had a sister who was a single mother, but I didn’t know his nephew was a teenager. He rarely talked about them, so I thought he wanted to keep our relationship lighter than ‘meeting-the-family’ status, and I was perfectly fine with it.
He’d mentioned to me that I should meet his sister once or twice, but there’d always been something else to do. Maybe he wasn’t that interested in me meeting his family, but I knew why I didn’t want him to meet mine. Knowing them, they’d make the situation much more formal than it should have been, and I didn’t want Josh to get the impression I was out to tie him down. Our intentions with each other were clear, but the formality and future path of our relationship was a whole other topic. I didn’t know if he was ready for something like that; I knew that at the moment, I definitely wasn’t.
“I still don’t get it, though.” Josh completely changed the subject and therefore my train of thought. “Why is her pregnancy a problem?”
“Marisol hasn’t worked since Micah was born,” I explained. “She’s the best financial manager I’ve ever met. Sol’s great at her job, banks were always throwing money at her to work for them, but most of all, she really enjoyed working with numbers. She was really truly happy. Not that she isn’t right now,” I clarified. “She’s completely in love with Michael and Micah. I don’t think she’d have it any other way. But she was happy to go back to work, to feel fulfilled in her professional life. Now that Micah’s in preschool, she accepted a proposal from a bank she used to work for. Marisol’s super happy getting her chance to work with all those numbers. And she feels that a new baby will change it all. Somehow, she thinks that Michael and her family will pressure her into staying at home with the baby. She’s terrified of that.”
“That’s why she was so upset.” Josh seemed to really understand Marisol’s situation—seemed completely sympathetic. “But there must be other options,” he added. “Besides, a new baby should be a source of joy in any family. I love how children light up a place.”
OMG. I had never expected something like this from a man like Josh. A man I saw with so many different women, I once considered him a womanizer. A man who worked in the fashion world at a modeling agency, scouting models at bars and pubs. A man who kept telling me he was so in love with me. And now he mentioned babies and how wonderful they are.
It was too much for me right then.
“Whether they’re planned or not, having a baby is a big deal. People should be happy about it,” Josh continued, voicing his opinions in a parallel universe I never thought existed.
Yep, too much. I needed to stop this conversation.
“I’m sure,” I said, trying to stop any more ‘how wonderful are babies’ comments. “You know what, Josh? I’m really tired.” I stood and ran from his loving ministrations. “This whole thing with Sol completely drained all my energy and I have an early day tomorrow. Do you mind if I go to bed now?”
“Oh, sure, gorgeous,” he said. “I completely understand.” Josh walked to the door and I followed him closely. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” The way he said goodbye sometimes made my body physically reluctant to let him go. His kisses completely melted me, and he knew just how to ignite my body so I couldn’t do anything but want him. Tonight, though, I felt like being alone, and I really needed him to go.
“Will you meet me tomorrow at my place?” he asked as his mouth left a trail of kisses down my neck. “Or should I come back here?” His hands had already unbuttoned my shirt, exposing one of my breasts, and his skilled fingers played with my nipples.
“You’re the devil,” I said, pushing him against the door. He dropped his hands and gave one his most deliciously impish smiles. “Stay away from me.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know,” I answered.
“I love you, baby,” he said.
I kissed him lightly and closed the door behind him as he left. It might have been silly, but at that moment, I was really thankful that I was on the pill.
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