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Because today the fire is now real.

“…you’re pregnant,” my father says, like he was the one telling me the news.

I flinch because hearing the words out loud somehow makes it even more real. Like now that he knows, I am even more pregnant than I was when I came through the door.

“They don’t teach about condoms in that private school of yours?” the senator asks me, then I see the regret cross his face the second the question leaves his lips, because he already knows the answer.

Tanner sees the same thing I do and he answers for me. “No sir. They don’t,” he says with a huge smile. And I know why he is smiling. My father has campaigned against teaching contraception in our local school district. His plan for teaching sex-ed had been an abstinence only course called Abstinence Only.

“Wipe that ridiculous smile off your face,” my father says to Tanner, leaning across the desk. “I’ll have Nadine call a private doctor. Of course I can’t stand behind a termination, but as of right now the law is on your side, and it’s still your decision to make until, the Republicans change things that is.” It isn’t a statement about my options, it was a suggestion. An order.

“No!” I say, standing up. I hold my loose dress against my very rounded belly so he can be face to face with what it was he was suggesting I do. “It’s too late for that,” I say, “and even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t just call a doctor and get rid of it.” I stare him down.

“What do you mean it’s too late?” my father asks cautiously.

“She’s already six months,” Tanner says, trying to deflect some of his bitterness away from me.

Thankfully it works because the senator moves on to a new plan. I’m still waiting him to call my mother.

“We need to sort this out, figure out how we are going to approach this mess,” my father says. “There is a lot to consider in matters like these,” and he’s right. We have to talk about what I am going to do about school. who would be taking me to my doctor’s appointments, and lots of other details. I intertwine my fingers and take a deep breath.

“Look,” I start, but my father holds up a hand to silence me and reaches for his desk phone, dragging it from the corner to the center. He flips open his cell phone and scrolls through. Finding what he’s looking for he pushes the speakerphone button on the desk phone and references his cell as he dials.

“This is Mags,” a woman’s voice announces.

“It’s Price,” my father starts. “We have a situation here. We’re going to need to work out a strategy, backlash, and then we need to talk approval rating. Maybe take a poll.”

Mags. I know that name.

The man in front of me, my father, the one bent over the desk phone, doesn’t care one bit that his teenaged daughter is pregnant. He doesn’t care that I will miss school. He doesn’t care that I don’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby, or that my entire world is about to change in the most drastic way imaginable. No.

This phone call is like tossing a bucket of ice over my head and dragging me back to the reality that was the senator.

Because his phone call was to the one and only Mags Allbright.

Public relations extraordinaire.

I am not his daughter.

I am a situation.

That was officially the last day I called him Dad. From that day on I called him by one name and one name only.

The senator.

My father sat behind his desk looking very much like he did the day I told him I was pregnant, except maybe a little worse for wear. There were circles around his eyes, his hair was noticeably grayer, his complexion now slightly yellowed. I sat down in the same green chair I’d sat in three years before.

“You’re not going to say hello?” a voice asked from the corner. I turned my head to see my mother sitting with perfect posture, her legs crossed at the ankles, in a high-backed chair.

“Hello,” I said. My mother sat forward, bracing herself on the armrest. She picked up a glass tumbler that was filled with some sort of dark liquor and stood. She set the glass down on the senator’s desk, the liquid splashing over the side. “Are you feeling better now that you’re back from…the spa?” I asked.

“I’m fine, dear. So glad to have you home,” she said robotically. “I’m assuming you don’t remember me either,” she stated.

I shook my head and then remembered the picture frame I was still clutching in my hands. “I remember her, though.” I turned over the frame in my hand and pointed to Nikki.

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