Now that I am aware of what’s going on. I almost enjoy it. I can eat and not feel guilty, I can skip the jogging, and stick to walking, and Jeff and Kelsie and her girlfriend have become my constant companions and defenders.
Except for one thing.
“You need to tell Chase.” Kelsie said again. Once a day she feels it is her duty to bring up the giant white elephant looming over my shoulder.
“I can’t approach him. I just don’t know how!”
“Listen. He has study hall with me third period. I can get a note to him, give me a time, place, use those hall passes! Otherwise we have to get the counselor to call him out of class.” This was a real threat. She would drag us both in there in desperation. Better to go all covert ops.
“Okay, okay. I’ll get out of third period at the beginning, saying I’m feeling ill. I’ll deliver the counselor pass to study hall. No one would know it wasn’t current. He’ll come out and we’ll go to the library or something.”
“No, go to the botany garden.” Jeff said. We looked at him funny. “There’re no cameras there.” He sighed. “It’s where I’d go.” He looked at the table.
“Good to know!” Kelsie broke the awkward silence. “Now you have a plan!”
I’m really nervous about this plan. I’ve been drafting a speech for it instead of doing my homework. Do I just say, ‘hey, I’m having your kid, I know you raped me’? This is so hard.
I completely spaced my doctor’s appointment! This one was much more pleasant. I also had to meet with a counselor to talk about why I want to give the baby up. That wasn’t so bad either.
“You’ve made a big decision about giving your baby up for adoption. That is commendable. Some mothers think they can do it all on their own or were pressured into adoption and change their minds later. How do you feel?”
“I am going to go to college and my Mom is a single mother, I know how hard it was to raise me. A baby is not going to fit into my plans. Besides, the baby may be my accident, but a real blessing to someone else.” I read that last part in a brochure somewhere. I knew she would eat it up.
“Fantastic! You certainly have a great outlook on this! What are you going to college for?”
“Uh, I don’t know. I think I want to be an accountant. I’m good with numbers.”
“Excellent! I wish you the best!” I wish all counseling sessions were that quick and painless.
I missed the 3rd period exchange with Chase.
“You bailed!” Kelsie accused.
“No, I had an appointment! I swear I totally forgot! I worked all night on my speech, and everything. I woke up and the fridge calendar said Doctor Appointment.”
“You have to do it tomorrow.” She pointed a finger at me. She and her silent partner sat. They traded food on their trays. Kelsie took extra vegetables in exchange for an extra roll.
“So how’s the baby?” Jeff asked.
“And how are you?” He looked at me over his carton of milk, like it was a shield he was hiding his feelings behind. I can tell he feels awkward around me. I’m not sure if it is the baby or what, but he seems to want to be involved in my life.
“I had to talk to a counselor about why I chose adoption to make sure I will still go through with it. How is your grandma?” I threw that in, since he was obviously taking the chatty ‘ask-about-the-health-of-someone’ route. And I knew he lived with her, not his parents.
“Oh, she’s doing alright.” He did not make eye contact. He was lying.
“She’s not.” I needed to drag this out of him, to not be the center of attention so much. The limelight was starting to burn.
“She is doing okay, but she is starting to forget things. I’m a little worried.” It reminded me of my own Grandma.
“Do you think she needs to be in a home?”
“What would I do? I have to be 18 to be on my own. I don’t turn 18 until next month. I’d have to go into foster care.”
“Foster care isn’t so bad.” Spiky spoke up. I think I had to close my mouth after she spoke. Either she finally felt comfortable with us, or we finally hit on a topic she knew about.
“Yeah, see, Jeff? If Kaci says it’s okay, then it’s okay.” So that was her name.
We all took a break from the conversation. I realized that while I hadn’t had any attacks upon my character, that didn’t mean the attackers hadn’t moved on to one of my friends. Kelsie and Kaci seemed oblivious to the social feathers they were ruffling, in fact, I bet they quite enjoyed it. That left Jeff.
“Jeff, what do you have next period?”
“Calc with Flemming.”
“He’s going over the homework, but there is no quiz, I had Flemming this morning.”
“Okay, and this is important because?”
“Because you are going to miss it.” The bell rang, I headed to my locker for the passes. I went to Flemming and said the counselor needed to see Jeff. The class oooo’d like a bunch of 4th graders. I took him to the botany garden. “Are you getting bullied because of me?”
“What? No. Where did you come up with that?”
“Well, they stopped putting notes in my locker, and you looked so.. distant.. and uncomfortable at lunch. I guessed they were after you.”
“No, it’s just... sometimes you are so blind. I know things, Hannah.”
“About Chase? About Kelsie? Who?”
“First of all. I was at that party.”
I blushed. He could have seen me topless. That thought never occurred to me.
“I tried to stop you from drinking, but Chase body checked me into the fridge and said to leave you alone, you were having a good time. I think he slipped you a roofie. A date rape drug.”
“What?!” This was serious. I mean, it explained a lot, but it meant that Jeff knew this all along. “You knew and you never told me?!”
“I wasn’t sure! When you told me you were pregnant, I was more certain, but it was too late. I’m so sorry.”
I began to cry. I sat on the little garden bench and sobbed. Jeff sat awkwardly beside me. “I kept trying to get close to you, to find a way to tell you, but you shoved me away. And by the time you welcomed me back, Kelsie was always around. It seems you just wanted to be friends, so I decided that if I wanted to be near you, I had to just be your friend.”
“What do you mean?” I gasped out.
“I want to be more. But if I want to get closer to you, the last thing I’d want to do is tell you I had a secret about you. You’d hate me forever. You probably do now. I deserve it.”
“You...still like me?”
“Yes. I think you are smart and funny and brave. I have liked you since last year. But you never liked me.”
Memories came flooding back of Jeff being there with a joke last year, his attempt at the party to rescue me from the popular kids and my own stupidity by acting cool when he gave away my identity, his being awkwardly there at the sonogram. It was the sweetest thing.
I realized something else then, too. Kelsie knew about Jeff. She had been trying this whole time to put Jeff right there in front of me, like a gift, and I had refused to see past my own troubles. I was blind, just like Jeff said.
“You are right, Jeff. I am blind. Kelsie knew this whole time. She was trying to get me to ask you to homecoming.”
“But instead she got you to go with James and planned her coming out party.”
“She planned that?!”
“I think she was frustrated with you and wanted to do something drastic. What’s more drastic than causing you emotional pain?”
“She was supposed to be my friend.” I was astonished that I had been so manipulated.
“You are her project, Hannah.” His words stung, but they rang true. How could I have been so dense? How could she use me like this? “I am so mad at her!” I stood up, ready to confront the girl who has manipulated me this entire year.
“You want this hall pass back?”
“Yes.” I stormed out.
But I’m not going to confront Kelsie like I did Jeff. I’m going to talk to Chase and end this.
“I think Kaci is going to break up with me.” Kelsie announced while staring at her tray.
I wondered where her other half was.
“Why?” I played friendly, because I hadn’t told her that I had her all figured out. Jeff was in on it, too.
“She said needed to study in the library today during lunch. She never studies.”
“Why don’t you tell her how you feel?” I suggested. It was a half-hearted plea for her to leave so I could steady myself from falling into her trap again.
“Because I’m not sure how I feel.”
“Don’t be silly! She stuck by you when you came out, and friends who stick by you are the best things in the world! Look how sweet you were to come with me to my sonogram!” I was laying it on thick, hoping she would get the hint. “You should go spend time with her. Maybe she is jealous of us.”
“Yeah, I’ll leave you two alone to talk and I’ll go find Kaci. Thanks.”
See that? I made it seem like her original plan to get Jeff and I together had worked. Only my plan backfired. Because apparently Kelsie ran into Chase in the hall and sent him after me.
“You have something to say to me?” He was all thunder and offense. I was so startled, and the baby must have been too, because it felt like she did a flip-flop. I took courage from her presence. He didn’t need to know.
“No. Who told you that?”
“Your little dyke you like to have threesomes with.”
“Oh is that the current rumor? Well the joke’s on you. Keep your enemies closer they say, well I know for a fact that as much as she messed up my life, she’s after you next. You’d better watch it.”
I felt rather good about springing this trap. If I had accused Chase right there of being the father of my child, the whole school would be reeling from the news, and Chase and I would have had to go to the counselor and reports would have been made, and I didn’t need that. Kelsie was just pissed so she threw Chase in my direction. I threw him back.
I felt good enough to skip home, but of course I drove. Mom was up and the kitchen smelled delicious.
“Hi honey! I have the night off, so I thought I’d cook us up a nice home-cooked meal!”
“What is going on?”
“Well, we are going to meet with an adoption lady.”
“At our house?”
“Yes, at our house. I bought you some maternity pants, go change.”
The pants looked so weird with the stretchy moon of fabric at the front, I was tempted to get rid of them. But I was unable to button or zip any of my mother’s pants so I tried them on. I was impressed. Who knew that stretchy front would be so darn comfortable? She had bought me a top too, that looked like a babydoll dress with a high waistline and flowing folds of fabric. It was a lot cuter on me than on the hanger. But now instead of a fat teen hiding in a hoodie, I looked like a proud pregnant mom-to-be. There was no way I was wearing this school.
“Ta-da!” I made a grand entrance into the kitchen. Mom had pulled a casserole from the oven.
“Oh! don’t you look darling!” The doorbell chimed. “That’s her! Would you go get it?”
Two women stood on the stoop. One was tall and elegant with a pearl necklace that I doubted was fake. She looked completely uncomfortable. The other was short and round with a big smile. “You must be Hannah!” She offered her hand. I shook it. “I am Sondra Pollock, with the adoption agency. This is Vivian McCord.”
“Nice to meet you. Won’t you come in?” I stepped back, allowing the nervous one and the cheerful one inside.
“Hello! I am Hannah’s mother, Marilyn.” My mother never used her real first name. She really wanted to impress these ladies. Taking that as my cue, I smiled really big. “Dinner will be ready in a few minutes, why don’t you take them into the living room, Hannah?” We were standing behind the couch. I walked around it and seated myself in the recliner. The two ladies took the couch.
“Hannah, you are a senior this year?”
“What are your plans for after high school?” The Question. All adults want to know what you are going to do after high school. I didn’t really know.
“Well, I have applied to many schools in the state. I am not quite sure, but I am thinking I’d like to be an accountant. I am good with numbers.”
“That’s wonderful! What else do you like?”
“I like science, I guess, next to math. Why do you want to know?”
“Well, your baby might like those things too. Vivian here, is thinking about adopting your baby.”
“Oh.” I was kind of shocked, I never thought I’d meet the adoptive parents, or parent.
“Do you have any questions for her?” I would if I weren’t so surprised.
“Dinner’s ready!” Saved by the bell. I ate because they wanted to see me with a healthy appetite, but I wasn’t really hungry, being on display like this. A few more awkward questions were asked, my mom lauded my current great G.P.A., and the woman stated that she couldn’t have kids and wanted to give the right one a chance at a good life. It sounded rehearsed.
They left us some forms. Mom was all bubbly, saying how the baby would have a better life than we did. “I thought you filled out forms already?”
“Those were preliminary forms, to sign you up for the adoption program. These look more official, with names and stuff. I’ll leave you to them.”
I put them in my backpack. I had a doctor’s appointment in a couple days, and maybe I could ask them if this was how it goes. I always thought the agency called in the new mom to the hospital. I suppose you could meet her, have what they called an Open Adoption, where you get to check in on the kid as it grows up, but I don’t recall signing up for that.
I was right! I asked to talk to the adoption lady, because I had some questions. I told her about the visit and showed her the papers. She said it was a scam! They would sell my baby and make money! I can’t believe they were in my house!
“Mom?” I asked her one evening as she headed out the door in her heavy makeup. “Where did you meet those adoption ladies?”
“At work. I overheard them talk about adoptions, and I asked, and well, they seemed so nice, and they said they worked to find the perfect homes for babies.”
“You met them at a bar?! And you thought they were legit!? Mom! They are scam artists! I talked to the adoption lady at the doctor’s office. That is not how adoption works!”
“Oh, honey, I’m so stupid!”
“Mom, I’m locking the doors and calling the police if they come back.”
“You do that honey. I let them in! Oh how could I be so stupid!” She hugged me for the longest time and was almost late for work.
I made sure to lock the doors even when I was home. What if they come back? I’ll throw the papers at them and threaten to call the police. The adoption lady explained that she would call a parent after I give birth. I have the option of seeing the baby or not, and I have the option of an open adoption, but I’m not sure how that would work. I don’t want to think about this year that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Instead, I want to think about Valentine’s.
When we go back to school Monday, it will be Valentine’s day. Jeff brought it up. He wants to do something.
As I wrote that, the phone rang. It was Jeff. He was standing outside, waiting with a small box of chocolates to take me on a non-date. Since it wasn’t Valentine’s, this was not a valentine date, he said.
He had rented a couple movies, because we had to pause like every 45 minutes so I could pee, and I’d miss half the movie if we went to a theater. And we ordered pizza, two of them, of which I ate most of one. He passed me the tissues when I cried, and told me about his grandma. We both agreed that I needed to meet her on our next non-date.
“So, where’s your mom?” Jeff asked me.
“She’s at work.”
“What’s she do?”
“I think she bartends or something. She’s been bringing home more cash lately, so I think she is getting good tips. She must be good at it.”
It was getting really late, so he bid me good evening. I realized I wanted him to kiss me. I think I had fallen for his non-date plan, and was smitten. I hoped Kelsie had nothing to do with this. It was almost too perfect.
Those ladies came back! I hid in the house and called the police. The baby kicked furiously. I could really feel her now. Soon the sirens in the distance made the ladies disappear. I thanked the police, told them what kind of car the two were driving, and hoped they caught them.
I gave the paperwork to the officer as evidence.
Later, a newspaper reporter came to the house for an interview. I said I did not want to comment until my mother was present. I locked the doors and didn’t open them, not even for the local news.
The phone rang. I let it ring and ring. Then my cell went off. Jeff.
“Your house is on the news!”
“They said they caught those adoption scammers, thanks to an anonymous phone call. Then they showed the police chase that began at your house! They are calling you a hero, who declines comment.”
“How many students know where you live?”
“Any who would put two and two together and start a rumor that you are pregnant?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well I wanted to call to prepare you, just in case. It won’t be me. Has Kelsie called?”
“Well, if she does, um, just don’t answer. I’ll be over soon.”
“Wait, do you think she will tell?”
“Depends how much she needs your secret to be told.”
I was clueless as to what that meant. I know it means that she could need my reputation to be spoiled so she can fly under the radar again, but what could she do that would need to go unnoticed?
Jeff came over and we sat in silence for a while. He turned on the evening news so I could watch the program over again.
“This is going to haunt me.” I declared.
“I’d stay, but I’m sure my grandmother would miss me. I need to get home.”
“Okay, I’ll text you if I need anything.”
I didn’t sleep well, hearing my mom get in at 2:30, having dreams about going to jail and stolen babies and evidence in my car.