Craving Vera(8)By: Nicole Jacquelyn
I knew I’d gone too far when Charlie’s expression darkened. “Not my fault you were too stupid to see what was right in front of you,” he shot back.
I felt that blow deep in my chest. It was as if those words caused an avalanche inside me, making me implode. The weight was unbearable.
“I thought you knew,” Jessica said apologetically. She was still standing by the couch, her arms wrapped around herself.
“Don’t speak to me,” I snapped.
“What are you even doing here?” Charlie asked. “Thought you couldn’t come back until later in the week.”
I contemplated telling him. For a split second, I considered laying everything out. I didn’t want to face a pregnancy alone. Charlie was older, he would know what to do. He would fix things. I knew he would.
But as I stared into his eyes, I realized that I didn’t even know the man I’d given my virginity to. I still had a little bit of pride, even as I stood there covered in my own vomit, and I’d never be able to look myself in the face if I threw myself at his feet and asked for help.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, my voice void of emotion. “Forget I came.”
He called my name as I ran back up the stairs, but I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. I raced silently through his back yard and through the shrubs even as I heard him come out the door behind me.
I’d mistakenly fell in love with the boy next door. I’d daydreamed about the bow in his top lip and the way his hair fall in his face when he was working on his motorcycle. I’d imagined a life with him, secret visits until I was eighteen and then the two of us leaving this town behind for something better. I’d traced his chest while he slept, believing that some day I’d be able to fall asleep next to him. How could a guy look at a girl the way Charlie looked at me and still go have sex with someone else? I didn’t understand any of it and it was a crushing blow to realize that I had been completely wrong about everything.
I didn’t stop running until I reached my window and crawled back inside. Then I walked straight to my Gran’s bedroom across the hall.
“Sweetheart, what is it?” she asked, her eyes widening as she saw what a mess I was.
“Gran,” I said, my voice trembling. “I really screwed up.”
“We’ll fix it,” she said immediately, reaching out to pull me into her arms as I started sobbing.
“Wait,” I said, raising my hand in a “stop” signal as I leaned forward. “She and Slider had a baby?”
Poet pushed himself slowly off the couch a few feet away. “Woman, what’re you tellin’ them?”
“The story Vera told me,” Amy said, raising her eyebrows at her husband. She waited until he’d shuffled all the way to the table to speak again. “And your hearing is awfully good when it suits you.”
“What?” Poet replied, tugging on his earlobe. “Didn’t catch that.”
Asa chuckled in my ear. “That’s gonna be us,” he murmured as one of the boys grabbed him a chair to sit in.
“It’s already us,” I mumbled. “You can’t hear shit.”
“I hear plenty.”
“You hear what you want to hear,” I said, turning my head to meet his eyes.
“Later, I’m gonna hear you makin’ all those noises I love,” he said, his lips tipping up in the corners.
“I’ll make sure to be nice and loud,” I said dryly. “Wouldn’t want you to miss them.”
Asa chuckled, his arm around my waist tightening.
“That baby never happened,” Poet said, raising his voice over all of the conversations going on around the table. “You all know that.”
“I feel like I should be writing all this down,” Tommy joked, breaking the tension at the table the only way he knew how. “Someone get me a pen.”
“You’re not funny,” Rose said, flicking a beer cap across the table at her brother. “Shut up.”
“I think you’re funny,” Hawk said, leaning into Tommy.
“Thanks, baby,” he said.
I rolled my eyes at my children. They still fought like cats and dogs, but if any one of them had a problem the others would be lined up to fix it. Rose was the worst, she antagonized the boys like it was her job, but it didn’t matter what shit she pulled, they still treated her like fine china.
It was days like today that made me ache for the son I’d lost. My Michael. Sweet as pie and big as an ox, it killed me that I never got to see him grow up with the rest of my babies. I’d never know what kind of man he would have been. Would he have told bad jokes like Tommy? Been quiet like Will? Would he have fought with Rose or let her get away with everything the way his brothers did?