“Oh, Christa.” Mom sounded disappointed in me, the way I was disappointed. I’d failed her. Mom gave up every dream of her own for me. She’d worked two jobs or more my whole childhood, never any help. At twenty-three, Mom had her tubes tied, right on the cesarean surgical table. That never sounded extreme. After years of my father hitting her, two was enough. Two was the punch line. My father had wanted my mother to abort me. I never thought that fact anything other than a fact. It had nothing to do with me. It never hurt. I’d imagine a curtain drawn. Everything black and blank and peaceful without him.
[ Return to the review of “Loved and Wanted.” ]
A long pause.
Mom said if I wanted another baby, I could do it. If I wanted to focus on the children I already had, I could do that. Maybe Mom was right, though I was leery. I’d called her crying and panicked the morning Trump won too. It had been tense between us; Mom insisted the country would be fine, don’t be dramatic. Nothing would change. It’s always been a man’s place. Four years later we still remind each other how correct I’d been. But never mind. Mom reassured me we live in a free country. Choice is a given.
“You’re right, Mom.” As the adult child of an abused woman, there is a code Mom earned: Don’t upset her. Do less harm than good. Take care. Let her know you’re safe. “I’ll be okay,” I half whispered. Where in Mom’s house was she? At the kitchen table, a cigarette smoldering in the ashtray, readying for the night shift? “I’ll talk to you later. After work.” I pressed the red End Call button at the bottom of my phone. For the first time in my adult life, I longed to live at home again. To have the care of Mom’s meals, and the electric bill paid.
I went back for the EPT, to the bathroom. The little plastic wand was overturned beside the tub. It looked so small there, and harmless, like a scrap of littered paper. I picked up the test, flipped it over in my palm. Still positive. Lines brighter than before. I balanced on a tightrope strung between defiance and disbelief. I held my phone above the double-red-striped viewing window, snapped a photo, and texted the image to Tony without comment. I didn’t want him to see the picture. I wanted him to feel it. A big fat positive like a kick to the gut.
Surely this news would propel Tony to change. A scare like this would dare him into responsibility. He’d own his part. Make it better. Somehow. I felt powerful as I waited for him to respond to my buckshot, as if my being right could protect us from being broke. But then again, this must be a mistake. I’d laugh about it tomorrow. How I’d frightened myself.
Tony wrote back immediately. “You’re joking?” and then, “Baby? Stop.” Baby, one pet name he calls me.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“You’re in the house?”
“Yes, in the office.” I used to have an office; Iris’s bedroom now.