But the voice I hear on the other end of the line, the voice that says “Hello?” isn’t my mother or my father. It’s my sister.
“Sarah?” I ask. “What are you doing at Mom and Dad’s?”
“Hannah!” she says. “Hi! George and I are here for the weekend.” She pronounces it “wee-KEND.” I find myself rolling my eyes. I can hear my dad in the background, asking who is on the phone. I hear my sister’s voice turn away from the handset. “It’s Hannah, Dad. Chill out . . . Dad wants to talk to you,” she says.
“Oh, OK,” I say back, but she doesn’t give up the phone.
“I want to know when you’re coming to visit,” she says. “You didn’t come last Christmas like you normally do, so I think we’re owed.”
I know she’s joking. But it irritates me that she assumes I should always go there. Just once, I’d like to be important enough to be the visited instead of the visitor. Just once.
“Well, I’m in L.A. now,” I tell her. “So the flight is a bit longer. But I’ll get there. Eventually.”
“OK, OK,” she says to my dad. “Hannah, I have to go.” She’s gone before I can even say good-bye.
“Hannah Savannah,” my dad says. “How are you?”
“I’m good, Dad. I’m good. How are you?”
“How am I? How am I? That is the question.”
“No, I’m fine, sweetheart. I’m fine. Your mother and I are just sitting here discussing whether we want to order Italian or Thai takeaway for dinner. Your sister and George are trying to get us to go out someplace, but it’s pouring out, and I’m just not in the mood.”
My plan to blurt it out has failed.
Or has it?
“That’s nice. So, Dad, I’m pregnant.”
. . .
. . .
. . .
I swear to God, it sounds as if the line has gone dead. “Dad?”
“I’m here,” he says, breathless. “I’m getting your mother.”
I hear another voice on the phone now. “Hi, Hannah,” my mom says.
“Can you repeat what you said, Hannah?” my dad says. “I’m afraid that if your mother hears it from me, she will think I am playing a joke on her.”
I have to blurt it out twice?
. . .
. . .
. . .
Silence again. And then a high-pitched squeal. A squeal so loud and jarring that I pull the phone away from my ear.
And then I hear my mother scream, “Sarah! Sarah, get over here!”
“What, Mom? Good Lord. Stop screaming.”
“Hannah is pregnant.”
I hear the phone being rustled from person to person. I hear them all fighting over the handset. I hear my mother win.
“Tell us everything. This is marvelous. Tell us about the father! I didn’t know you were seeing someone serious.”
My mom thinks I got pregnant on purpose.
My mom thinks I’m ready to have a baby.
My mom thinks there’s a father.
My mom, my own mother, is so unaware of who I truly am and what my life is like that she thinks I planned this baby.
That is one of the funniest things I have ever heard. I start laughing, and I keep laughing until the tears in my eyes fall to my cheeks.
“No father in the picture,” I say between fits of laughter. “I’ll be a single mother. Entirely accidental.”
My mother quickly adjusts her tone. “Oh,” she says. “OK.”
My dad grabs the phone from her. “Wow!” he says. “This is shocking news. But great news! This is great, great news!”
“It is?” I mean, it is. It is. But they think it is?
“I’m going to be a grandpa!” he says. “I am going to be a phenomenal grandfather. I’m going to teach your kid all kinds of grandpa things.”
I smile. “Of course you will!” I say it, but I don’t mean it in the slightest. He’s not here. He’s never here.
Sarah grabs the phone from my dad and starts talking about how happy she is for me and how it doesn’t matter that I’m raising the baby on my own. And then she corrects herself. “I mean, it matters. Of course it matters. But you’re going to be so great at it that it won’t matter.”
“Thanks,” I say.
And then my mother steals the phone from Sarah, and I can hear the background din changing as she moves into another room. I hear the door shut behind her.
“Mom?” I say. “Are you OK?”
I hear her brace herself. “You should move home,” she says.
“What?” I ask her. I don’t even understand what she’s talking about.
“We can help you,” she says. “We can help you raise a baby.”
“You mean I should move to London?”
“Yeah, here with us. Home with us.”
“London is not my home,” I tell her, but this doesn’t faze her in the slightest.
“Well, maybe it should be,” she says. “You need a family to raise a baby. You don’t want to do it on your own. And your father and I would love to help you, love to have you here. You should be here with us.”
“I don’t know . . .” I say.
“Why not? You just moved to Los Angeles, so you can’t tell me you’ve built a life there. And if there is no father in the picture, there is no one to hold you back.”
I think about what she’s saying.
“Hannah,” she says. “Let us help you. Let us be your parents. Move into the guest room, have the baby here. I’ve always said you should have moved to London with us a long time ago.” She has never said that. Never once said that to me.
“I’ll think about it,” I tell her.
I hear the door open. I hear her talk to my father.
“I’m telling Hannah it’s time for her to move to London.”
“Absolutely, she should,” I hear him say. Then he grabs the phone. “Who knows, Hannah Savannah, maybe you were always meant to live in London.”
Until this very moment, it never even occurred to me that I might belong in London. The city my own family lives in, and I never considered moving there.
“Maybe, Dad,” I say. “Who knows?”
By the time I get off the phone, my parents are convinced I’m moving there as soon as possible, despite the fact that I very clearly promise only that I will consider it. In order to get them off the phone, I have to promise to call them tomorrow. So I do. And then they let me go.
I lie there on my bed, staring at the ceiling for what feels like hours. I daydream about what would happen if I left Los Angeles, if I moved to London.
I consider what my life might look like if I lived in my parents’ London apartment with a new baby. I think about my child growing up with a British accent.
But mostly, I think about Gabby.
And everything I’d miss if I left here.
It’s noon before Mark shows up.
I answer the door quickly, my hands jittery and nervous. I’m not nervous because he intimidates me or I don’t know what to say to him. I’m nervous because I’m scared I might say something I’ll regret.
“Hi,” he says. He’s standing in front of me, wearing jeans and a green T-shirt. As I hoped, he’s alone. He has broken-down boxes under his arm.
“Hi,” I say. “Come on in.”
He steps into the house, lightly, as if he doesn’t belong here. “The moving van is coming in a half hour,” he says. “I got a small one. That’s sounds right, right? I don’t have a lot of stuff, I guess.”
“Right,” I tell him.
I watch as his gaze travels down to Charlemagne, the two of them foes in the most conventional sense of the word. The house isn’t big enough for the two of them.
Mark rubs his eyes and then looks at me. “Well,” he says, “I’ll get to packing, I guess. Excuse me.”
He’s more uncomfortable about this than I am. His vulnerability eases me. I’m less likely to scream at a repentant man.