There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to make a decision. A decision that can alter his life and change everything. Today, I make that decision. Based on my decision, my future can go one of two ways. I can either choose college and continue the plans I made. Or can I choose my girlfriend, Janice. I can choose to be everything I promised that I would be for her.
And that’s what I want to choose most.
If I choose college, I do what my parents want me to do. Get good grades that land me a high paying job, and then, eventually, settle down and have a family, after I’ve established a good lifestyle for myself. Yeah. I don’t think they’d be too pleased to know their eldest son wants to skip a few steps.
I love Janice, and I’m prepared to take responsibility for my actions.
Yeah. If it weren’t obvious by now, I’m choosing Janice.
The day Janice calls me with the news, I feel like someone has yanked a rug from under my feet. I don’t fall flat on my face. Nah. Just on my ass. I’m only in shock long enough to realize that I wanted this to happen. Janice could have told me to be more careful, but she didn’t.
“Babe,” I say, lowering myself to the floor beside my bed. “Are you sure?”
“How more sure do you want me to be, Chad?” Janice asks; I can hear how frantic she is. “I’m already starting to show. I can’t hide it anymore. We have to tell our parents.”
I sigh and a hand through my hair. I know she’s right. We should tell our parents. We need to tell our parents.
“Aside of you and me, who else knows?” I ask, lowering my voice when I hear movement in the hallway.
“I’ve told only Dora,” Janice replies, sighing. “And I know she’s younger, but she’s more understanding than most give her credit for. It’s just the three of us, unless you told one of your buddies.”
“Okay. No, I didn’t tell anyone. So . . . Would you like us to tell our parents together? Or do you want to tell your folks and I’ll tell mine?”
“I think it would be easiest to tell them together. Like all of us in one room. My parents won’t freak out too badly with company. Thought they might reprimand me in private afterwards.”
“Not if I have any say in it. If their reaction is not . . . not the best, you stay with me. My mom is understanding and would never force you to do anything rash.”
“Benefits of having a mother who mildly represents women’s rights.”
Footsteps approach my bedroom door and I shoot to my feet.
“I’ll work out a dinner,” I say quickly. “I gotta go. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I end the call and shove my phone into my pocket just as my dad, grinning like he’s won the lottery. In his hands, he holds a large white envelope. College acceptance letters.
“Yale,” Dad says, holding it out to me. “And it’s only a matter of time before Stanford sends their letter.”
I nod and take the letter, but my heart isn’t in it.
“Everything alright, son?”
I look up at my dad. The only thing we’ve been talking about for months is me getting into Yale or Stanford. Of both my parents, he’s the one who will be most disappointed.
“It’s nothing,” I say, shaking my head as I set the letter on my desk. “Just thinking too much I guess.”
“Janice isn’t distracting you from your studies, is she?” Dad asks, not angry, more like concerned. “You said she wouldn’t be a distraction.”
“And she’s not. Trust me, we both made the agreement to not distract each other.”
He pats my shoulder and juts his chin at my desk.
“Open it over dinner, when your mother’s home.”
“She was here when I got back from school,” I say, confused because I know I saw her at the dining table with her papers.
“She went to find your brother,” Dad explains as he turns to leave. “He’s been hanging out with some new girl. He’s out passed curfew, barely home on weekends. I wonder if she’s a bad influence. Have you met or seen her around at school?”
“If anything, I think Dyl is the bad influence. Belle’s parents are strict about her being out late and she’s made it clear to him. He respects her . . . Dylan could be hanging with the crowd again.”
My brother was born ten months after me and though we are close, we couldn’t be more different. While Dylan is extraordinarily athletic, I’ve got my head stuck in books and academics. My brother also has a rep. A pretty bad rep, but I’ve seen him changing. I just don’t think Dad does.
“Dad,” I hesitate, my mind going back to my conversation with Janice. “Can I invite Janice and her parents over tonight?”
“Do Janice’s parents know you want to invite them?” Dad asks, scrutinizing me.
“Janice and I have been wanting to have both our families do something together. I thought about it today and figured I’d ask. There’s still time to call Janice and let her know.”
My dad nods thoughtfully. “It’s alright with me, just let your mother know.”
I nod as he leaves my room. Quick as a cheetah - yeah, I’m like that - I grab for my phone and shoot Janice a text.
Me: Dinner at my house tonight. Invite your parents.
She replies instantly.
Janice: You want to get this over with quick, huh?
Me: I do. It’s better than waiting for when you are showing more.
Janice: Yeah, and it would be far worse to wait.
Janice: I guess we’ll see later. Love u.
Me: Love u 2.
When Janice and her parents arrive for dinner, I can tell she’s nervous. She’s wearing my Rolling Stones T-shirt and a pair of plain jeans. I smile when I notice she’s tugging the hem. She must be extremely self-conscious. I approach my girl while the parents are greeting each other, and pull her into my arms.
“She’s kicking,” Janice whispers, standing on her toes to kiss my cheek.
“She?” I ask, pulling back slightly.
She sticks out her tongue and steps away from me to hug Dylan. Whom has just appeared out of nowhere.
“How’s my favorite sister doing?” he jokes, gently lifting her off the ground and swinging her feet like he always does.
“A little sick lately,” she replies, sighing when my brother sets her down.
Dylan glances at me, eyebrow above his blue-brown eye raised in suspicion. My brother has two different colored eyes. When we were younger, he liked scaring all the girls. For some reason, they freaked out and Dylan loved it. Attention hog.
Dylan slides his arm around Janice’s shoulders, mostly to annoy me, but I know he cares about her like a sister.
“Did you knock her up?” he asks, lowering his voice and leaning closer to me.
Janice gasps, cover her mouth as her blush spreads over her cheekbones. She looks at me with large, doe-like eyes.
“You did,” Dylan says, nodding as he chuckles at my girl. “Why else would you have wanted dinner with both sets of parents.”
“Please don’t say anything,” Janice whispers, dropping her hand.
“I won’t, I promise. But I swear, if you guys plan on making me babysit, I’ll run off with that gang of bikers downtown.”
“I’m calling B.S. on that one,” I chuckle, looking at the parents. “We should head to the table now. We’ll want the folks good and full before we break the news.”
“If you need backup, I’m here,” Dylan says, letting me pull Janice away.
He turns and heads for the dining room. Janice and I exchange a look. My brother took that better than I ever would have guessed. I kiss my girl on the forehead and we follow after Dylan.
Dinner seems to fly by. My dad is laughing and talking to Mr. Cleary about a recent football game. Mrs. Cleary is in the kitchen with my mother, washing the dinner dishes. Dylan, surprisingly, is good to his word and stays as backup. Instead of disappearing, he invited Belle to come over. She and Janice are hitting it off, and it her first time here.
“I would be happy just going to community college,” Janice says, playing with the end of her - well, my - T-shirt nervously.
Belle seems to notice and glances between her and me. She smiles and reaches to squeeze Janice’s hand. How is it that my brother and his girlfriend can see what’s going on, but our parents are completely oblivious? I gotta get this over with. It should be a more private matter, with just the parents. But maybe an audience will keep the setting chill.
“Um,” I rise from the couch and glance towards the kitchen. “Mom, Mrs. Cleary? Would you come here a moment?”
Janice stands next to me and I slip my arm around her shoulders. She hugs my waist, and I glance down to see her angling her body in my side. When our mothers enter, I motion for them to sit on the couch, moving me and my girl to the center of the room. Our dads stop talking and look in our direction. Dylan and Belle sit on the floor. My brother nods and brings his fist to his chest. A sign we’ve often done to show each other support.
“What’s going on?” Mom asks, wary.
“Janice and I have to tell you something,” I reply, exhaling slowly. “Nothing bad . . . at least, we don’t think so.”
“Honey?” Mrs. Cleary says with concern. “Should I be worried?”
“I don’t know if it’s reason to worry,” Janice says, hiding at my side.
“I thought we agreed you wouldn’t accept any marriage proposal until you been to college a couple years,” her dad stands, crossing his arms as he glares at me.
“It’s not that,” she quickly adds, shaking her head. “Daddy, please. Don’t jump to conclusions. You said you trusted me to make my own decisions.”
“I do, sweetie. I just don’t want you to make a decision that you’ll regret later.”
“I know, but I don’t regret what we’re going to tell you. Please.”
I watch as Mr. Cleary sighs, nods and returns to his chair. I glance at my dad, then at my mom. She nods, waiting. However, before Janice and I have a chance to speak, her mother gasps.
“Honey, are you pregnant?” She rises to her feet, hand covering her heart and a smile pulling at her mouth. Janice nods and hugs me tighter.
“How far along?” my mom jumps in, her voice is calm, collected.
“Oh, sweetie, that’s wonderful news!”
My mother is on her feet and pulling Janice into a hug before anyone else can react. I glance at my brother. Dylan’s rolling his eyes, but grinning like always. Belle is smiling brightly. Her expression tells me that she knew this was gonna happen.
“You come to me if you need anything,” Mom is telling Janice, cupping her cheek with a smile. “And I do mean anything. I don’t know what your parents are thinking right now, but I’m for you, okay?”
Janice starts to cry, nodding as she falls into my mother’s arms again. I look at Janice’s parents and deflate. Her dad is not pleased. Her mother looks like she is on the fence. My dad is having a similar reaction to Mrs. Cleary. Mom comes to hug me, and when I bend over, she whispers to me.
“I know you weren’t meaning for this to happen,” she says, patting my shoulder. “But sometimes, we have no control over our circumstances.”
I nod as she pulls away, giving me a ‘Don’t screw this up’ look. Dad comes over to me. Our conversation from earlier is written all over his face. He’s disappointed.