“Aria,” Keira said, shaking her head. She set the papers down on the closest table and within a second her hands pattered over her heart. “That’s very kind, honey, but…”
“But what? You can have it. I promise.”
“Sweetie,” she said, placing her hand on my cheek, and then combing my hair behind my ear. She even touched my face like mothers were supposed to. “That’s very sweet,” she repeated. “And I’m sure Simon told you about our issue, but it’s not your responsibility, honey. It’s really okay.”
“Keira, I really want you to have it. I’m not just being hormonal, and I’m not just feeling sorry for you. I’ve tried to figure out why this all happened to me, what it means, you know? And I think…” my voice shook, “I know I’m supposed to give it to you.”
Her eyes welled with tears. “What did your mom say about this?”
“I haven’t told her yet. I wanted to tell you first.”
“What about the father?” she asked.
I shook my head. James didn’t want a baby in his life. That was a given from the way he responded to Nadine’s dilemma. “Not a concern. Really, Keira. If you and Paul want it, it’s yours. I want nothing more than for the baby to have a loving mom and dad.”
Her hands covered her mouth, and she couldn’t contain the tears that were falling from her eyes. She nodded her head yes. My heart flipped. She said yes. “We’ll have to speak to your mother, Aria. And if you aren’t sure—”
“I am,” I promised. “We’ll talk to my mom. But, well, do we hug or something now?”
“Yes,” Keira sighed, wrapping her arms around me. She rested her head on top of mine. “Yes. We hug now.”
The closer she pulled our hug, the more I felt it—the feeling that this was the right thing to do.
But that didn’t mean I couldn’t also be a little sad about it.
* * *
“This is insane,” Dad said, sitting on the couch. His eyes stayed on Mom as I tried to think of the last time he’d looked my way. “We’re not seriously considering this, are we?” he asked. He hardly ever looked at me anymore, and when he did, it was a look of disgust. Just a few months before, I was the apple of his eye, his baby girl, his Ari. I wished he knew how much it hurt me to know I’d hurt him.
Mike entered the house holding a piece of paper, and stared in our direction, taking in yet another fight.
“It’s an option,” Mom said.
“To give the thing to Keira? Come on. This is getting ridiculous!”
He called it a thing more often than a baby.
“Well, what advice do you have to offer? Because lately all you’ve been doing is complaining and avoiding, which isn’t realistic.”
“What does the therapist we’re paying an arm and a leg for have to say about this?”
I didn’t know. Mostly Dr. Ward and I talked about art.
“Who’s the father?” Dad asked me.
I didn’t speak.
“Dammit, Aria! Who’s the father?!” he hollered, slamming his hand against the arm of the couch. He thrust out his chest and tightened his jaw. “How the hell are we supposed to be realistic about this when she acts like a child herself?”
“I don’t know, but it makes it a million times more difficult when the grown man of the house throws hissy fits whenever the idea of his daughter being pregnant is brought up!”
He tossed a hand up in dismissal as he stood from the couch. “Do whatever you want, Camila. By all means give the thing to your best friend. I’m sure that won’t cause any kind of issues down the road.”
“Grow up, Adam!” Mom shouted as Dad stormed from the room. Her forehead fell to her hands. “We’ll figure this out, Aria. Okay? If this is really what you want to do, then we will figure this out, with or without your father’s approval. But if you can, you should tell the father of the child. It’s only right.”
She left the room with her shoulders drooped low and her stress high.
Mike stood in the foyer, still holding his piece of paper. He grimaced. “I got into UW-Madison,” he said to the now empty room. He crumpled up the paper and walked away. “Not that anyone gives a damn.”
* * *
That night after Mom left for work, I ran to the store to grab a few things. When I returned home, I spent hours in the kitchen baking, enlisting Grace to help me. She told me more horror stories about my pregnancy while she cracked the egg yolks into the cake batter.
Once all of the baking was done, she and I dressed the living room in red and white streamers and balloons. We made signs and hung them around the room, and when everything was in place, I had Grace run up to get Mike, because I knew he wouldn’t want to see me after I ruined his big news.
When he came down, he saw the room decked out in UW-Madison colors with the worst decorated cake ever sitting in the center of the coffee table. It had an animal drawn on it, which was supposed to be a badger, but somehow came out looking like a dead dog.
“Congratulations!” we shouted at Mike as he walked in.
He tried his best not to smile, but it slipped out. “I thought you were an artist? That cake is ugly,” he remarked, walking into the room.
“Hey! I made that!” Grace said, throwing a plastic spoon at Mike.
He retracted his statement. “By ugly I meant perfect.”
KitKat woke up from her nap a few minutes later, and the four of us sat in the living room eating cake and celebrating Mike getting into school.