The crescent roll bowl landed in my hands and I passed it on to Mike, not replying to Mom’s excitement.
“I thought you would be excited.” A slight frown hit her. “I thought this was what you wanted.”
Nothing from me.
“Aria, your mother’s talking to you,” Dad said with command in his tone, even though his eyes were looking past the dining room table to the television in the living room playing Sports Center. Dad had a way of backing Mom up when he was hardly paying attention. He always came into the conversations at precisely the right time, like a spousal sixth sense.
“I’m pregnant,” I stated nonchalantly, stuffing a spoonful of peas into my mouth. The words rolled off of my tongue as if it was a normal thing for me to be saying. As if I’d been trying for months to become impregnated by the love of my life. As if it was the next logical step in my life.
Mike held his crescent roll in midair, his eyes darting back and forth between our parents. My younger sister Grace’s eyes were bugged out. My baby sister KitKat threw a few peas at Dad, but that was normal because she was a one-year-old and always threw peas at Dad.
I supposed their reactions were the precise way to look based on what I’d told them twenty seconds before.
I wished I was invisible.
My eyes shut. “Just kidding.” I laughed, becoming wary of the strange silence that filled the dining room. I poked Mom’s special meatloaf with my fork. Everyone’s faces softened, the shock subsiding.
“You’re kidding?” Mom choked out.
“She’s kidding.” Mike sighed.
“Kidding?” Dad sang.
Grace nodded with understanding. “Totally kidding.”
KitKat giggled, but then again she was always either giggling, howling in tears, or throwing peas.
“Yeah,” I muttered, my voice wanting to shake. I wouldn’t allow it to. “Not kidding.”
Dad tilted his head and was alarmingly calm. “Mike, Grace, take KitKat upstairs.”
“But!” Mike began to argue. He wanted to be front row center to watch our parents verbally assault me and my bad decisions. He was normally the one to get in trouble for drinking and partying with a few of the other football players, so it must’ve been nice to not have the parents eyeballing him with stern looks for a change. I was always the well-behaved kid who promised and delivered straight A report cards each semester. My acts of rebellion were small in comparison: a shaved head and too much eyeliner had been the extent of my wild and crazy—until now.
Dad turned his deceivingly calm stare to Mike. That shut him up quick. He lifted KitKat out of her chair and left the room.
The dinner table conversation took a turn for the worse, and I knew I should’ve told Mom alone first. She was a pediatrician and worked closely with kids and their issues, so maybe she would have understood. But instead, I’d tried to be all nonchalant about the issue and decided to drop my big news in front of my father.
He wasn’t a pediatrician.
He didn’t “get” kids.
He was a plumber.
He dealt with people’s crap for forty plus hours a week. Clogged toilets, sinks, nasty tub drains—you name it, he fixed it.
Which meant by dinnertime, he was pretty annoyed by other people’s shit. Including mine.
“Pregnant, Aria?” Dad hissed, his face turning redder and redder by the second. The bald spot on the top of his head was bright and steaming with anger. Dad was a heavyset man of very few words. He never had much reason to raise his voice at us. We were, on the whole, decent kids. Even with Mike’s drinking and partying, Dad would scold him quietly. He’d had it pretty easy raising us until about three minutes ago.
I didn’t reply to his question. My non-responsiveness made it worse.
“Pregnant?!” His voice became a holler as his fists slammed against the table, knocking over the salt shaker. My fingernails dug into the palms of my hands, and I accidently bit the inside of my lip. Dad’s blue eyes were stern with disappointment and his mouth was so intent on forming a frown that it made me feel sad, too.
“Adam.” Mom grimaced, bothered by the way he was raising his voice at me. “Do you want the neighbors to hear?”
“I doubt that would matter because I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to see it soon enough!”
He was at a full-blown shout, and I was terrified.
“Screaming isn’t going to make it better,” Mom explained.
“And speaking softly isn’t going to either,” Dad replied.
“I don’t like your tone, Adam.”
“And I don’t like that our sixteen-year-old daughter is pregnant!”
My body tensed up. If there was anything worse than saying the word pregnant myself, it was hearing the word fly from Dad’s mouth. My stomach was tightly knotted, and I felt my dinner rising back up my throat. I’d never made any mistake that would make my parents seem so broken. How had I screwed up that much?
They were fighting.
They never fought.
The last time I’d heard them do anything close to fighting was when they were trying to pick a nickname for KitKat, and that had ended with Dad kissing Mom’s forehead and rubbing her feet during an episode of “NCIS”.
My hands fell to my lap, and I wanted to try to explain to them how it had happened. I wanted them to understand how I knew being pregnant as a teenager was a terrible thing. I repeat: being sixteen and pregnant is a terrible thing. I’d watched the show “16 & Pregnant” on MTV way too many times, and I should’ve known to keep my lady parts away from that guy, but something weird happened to my brain when he called me beautiful. Well, not beautiful, but cute, which was more than I’d ever been called before by anyone other than my parents. Weird and freak, yes. Cute? Not so much.