“You think you’re ready for this? Have you been getting your extra workouts in?” Dad asked, placing a tray of his hamburgers in the middle of the table.
“Yes, sir. Coach said I have nothing to worry about, though, he said I’m pretty much guaranteed a few schools. So, I should be able to pick the one I want the most.”
“Don’t let it get to your head, though. You have to keep your grades up, too. You need a backup plan.” Dad lowered himself into his chair and glanced toward me before turning back to Mike. “People should have a backup plan.”
Mike agreed with him, and Mom just frowned at me. I tried my best not to draw any attention to myself during dinner. After all, during the last Sunday dinner I’d dropped the ‘I’m pregnant’ situation and things had gone downhill pretty fast. This time I just wanted to enjoy my favorite burger.
I took my first bite and my nose scrunched up. “Did you do something different to the burgers?” I asked.
Dad’s eyes locked with mine for less than two seconds before he looked away, adding potato salad to his plate. “Same as always.”
Nodding, I took another bite. My nose scrunched again. It didn’t taste the same as always. It tasted…bad, actually. I placed the burger down and pretty much lost my appetite for everything sitting in front of me.
“Why aren’t you eating?” Grace asked me, stuffing her burger into her mouth. Just seeing her eat that thing was making me want to gag. How do they not taste it?! “When Mrs. Thompson was pregnant she ate like a cow. She looked like a cow, too.”
“Grace, that’s not a nice thing to say,” Mom scolded. I hated that the conversation was slowly turning to my pregnancy; I didn’t want to ruin dinner for Dad, again. Mom crossed her arms and gave me a pity smile. “It’s called dysguesia,” Mom said. “Your taste buds are just off due to the baby.”
Dad cringed and pushed his chair from the table. Whenever he was annoyed the redness in his face deepened. “I think that’s enough.”
“Adam…” Mom’s voice was low. “Sit back down.”
“No. Not if this is just going to turn into last week again. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to deal with...” He gestured toward me as if I was a virus, a plague. “This.”
“I’m keeping it,” I said. Dad gave me a harsh stare, but I couldn’t stand being treated like this any longer. “I’m keeping it and I’m sorry if you hate me, but I’m keeping it.”
Before he could reply—or more likely yell—the front doorbell rang. He hurried off to answer it and the rest of us remained silent. Mike shot me the same dirty look Dad had, Grace tried not to giggle at my so-called life, and KitKat ate corn.
“You really need to think of better times to talk,” Mike said, irritated with my existence.
A few moments later Dad walked back into the dining room, and I was a bit surprised to see Levi walking in behind him. In an instant I was standing. “What are you doing here?”
“Is this the boy?” Dad asked, gesturing toward me. “Did he do this to you?”
“What?!” I hissed, embarrassed and shocked. “No!”
Levi cocked an eyebrow and paused. “I’m sorry, if this is a bad time…”
“What are you doing here?” I asked again.
“Who are you?” Mom said to Levi. I could feel my cheeks heating up. My heart was picking up speed, too. He made me nervous and excited all at once, and even though my mind knew it was a stupid idea to feel this way, my heart didn’t care.
“I’m Levi, ma’am. I’m Kent Myers’ son. I came up here to stay with him for the school year. I’m Aria’s partner.” His accent made him seem so innocent.
“Kent’s son? Partner? What does that mean?” Dad hissed, annoyed as ever.
“Dadddd!” I screamed, extremely mortified, covering my face.
“I mean, she’s my partner in our art and music class.”
Mom stood up and tried her best to break up the awkwardness. “Sorry, Levi. I think right now is just a bad time.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Watson, I really am, but I was hoping I could talk to you really quick.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out some papers. “Aria mentioned that you were a doctor, so I was wondering if I could talk to you. I promise it will be fast.”
He held the papers out toward Mom, and she started frowning. She brought him into the living room and they sat on the sofa. They were whispering as all of us watched. Levi’s shoulders sank and he listened to whatever Mom was saying to him. Every now and then he would nod and say, “Yes, ma’am,” but mostly he stared at the carpet, wiping at his eyes.
When they finished, he pushed himself up from the couch and thanked Mom before turning toward the front door and leaving.
I hurried into the living room. “What was that about?” I asked, moving to the window to stare at Levi walking away with his hands stuffed in his jeans and his head down.
“Poor guy.” Mom shook her head, walking back toward the dining room.
“I don’t want guys stopping over here, Aria! Especially a boy related to that deadbeat Kent Myers! Do you hear me?”
As Mom passed by him, tugging on her ear, she turned and said, “Give her a break, Adam. You’re acting like a real jerk.”
He didn’t reply, maybe because he knew it was true.
“What was that about?” I asked Mom, who sat back in her dining room chair and started eating as if nothing strange just happened. My heart was pounding in my chest wondering what she and Levi were talking about.