One of the greatest titles in the world is parent, and one of the biggest blessings in the world is to have parents to call mom and dad.
“You WHAT?!” Ethan turned bright red as he jumped up.
“Ethan, please calm down.” Blythe pleaded, just as shocked as her husband, both staring at their son, who sat at the table like a beaten dog.
“I don’t know what to tell you guys. I just found out myself, not even an hour or so ago. Totally blindsided me. And she’s already many months along, the timing adds up. She’s not the type to lie about stuff like that. If she says it’s mine, it’s mine. Wasn’t planned or anything …” Elias looked ready to sink into the ground.
“No, most certainly was NOT! But what will be planned is a wedding. After we get to meet the supposed mother of our grandchild, that is. We would like to meet her parents too, as soon as possible obviously, meaning within the next few days and then we all will talk about the future. And just let’s be clear, there will be a paternity test.”
“I don’t want to get married! Dad, I am only 22! Just graduated college! People have kids and are not married all the time.” Eli was even more horrified than he already had been.
“People do, but you won’t. Shared custody is not something to be taken lightly. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but definitely not something you should start out with if you have another option. And you have the option. You may not want to get married, and I get that, but you should have taken that into consideration before you put that bun in … what is her name even, or do you not remember?” Ethan rambled on.
“Of course I remember her name. It’s Sarah. Sarah Winters. We’re friends. Really good friends. Well, we were at least. This is not what you think. It wasn’t some random one-night-stand. And I don’t think she wants to get married … it still takes two, can’t hardly drag her off into a cave by her hair, Neanderthal style, dad.”
“Oh, we’re being funny now? A girl your mother and I have never even heard of until now, let alone met. If this had happened between you and Natasha, it would have been unfortunate, but different. But practically a stranger. Bad enough I had to raise you and your brother alone or with shared custody. No, you will marry the mother of your child, live together, suck it up and raise that child to the best of your abilities. If she was good enough to risk creating a human with, she is fit to be your wife. Now, go make that call and set up a meeting. They are welcome to come here, or we go see them at their home or meet elsewhere, but we will meet within the next two days!” Eli decreed.
Elias knew there was no use. Maybe if his mother would have spoken up, but Blythe just sat there staring at him with that certain look, the one mothers give you when you royally screwed up with no way out left.
He was still shocked himself. A baby? Now?!
This was not at all how he had his life imagined.
He knew Sarah from the San Myshuno campus, although they only had a few classes together, as she graduated in Business.
Once the breakup with Natasha had sunk in, he had felt lonely and there was an instant connection with Sarah, who had just gone through a nasty breakup herself at the time. They became friends, spent a lot of time together, almost joined at the hip. As the stress with the graduation increased, somehow both needed someone to get very close to. Add a night of drinking with friends and before they knew it, one thing lead to the next and things got intimate.
Naturally neither wasted a thought on protection then. Bad mistake.
After that night things got awkward, they couldn’t function around each other anymore, both felt humiliated and they stopped hanging out altogether. Soon finals kept everyone on a short leash anyway and then all graduated, went their separate ways.
After graduation Eli hadn’t heard from her again, nor had he made any effort to stay in touch with Sarah.
Until the call two days ago, seemingly out of the blue.
She wanted to meet, sounded urgent. When he walked into the cafe, he already knew what she was going to say. Her condition was obvious, and he just knew it was his. Call it an instinct.
But hearing her say the words out loud still pulled the rug out from underneath him.
So now the families met. It could not have been more uncomfortable. Not like anyone expected it to be a riot, but calling it awkward would have been a major understatement. Both sets of parents were unhappy about the situation, not so secretly blaming each other’s kids, which made the respective parents’ defenses go up, even though all were too sophisticated to really accuse each other, nor make a scene.
Eli knew from Sarah that her parents weren’t thrilled in the least. They had never met him either and felt about him the same way his parents felt about her.
It was worse than uncomfortable, even though Sarah briefly smiled at Eli across the table a few times, giving him hope. When she was busy talking as the parents were discussing their future, Elias snuck a few peeks at her. She was cute. Sweet. Pretty. Genuine. He had really liked hanging out with her, they had a lot in common, she was the exact opposite of Natasha, not only in appearance but her entire persona was a breath of fresh air, rather than the deep melancholy always radiating from Nat. Eli had wished more than once they hadn’t done what they did, and would have been able to keep in touch. They could have been best friends in time.
Instead now they were going to be parents. Sooner, rather than later. Sarah was already over 6 months along. Her initial plan had been to do this without Eli, humiliated, but her parents finally got hammered into her brain that the father needed to be involved. Like Ethan, Sarah’s parents both strongly pushed for marriage.
After dinner, while the parents were saying their goodbyes and getting one last word in with each other, Eli asked Sarah to meet him alone the next day. Without the parents. She agreed.
The next day they met up at a park. Eli waited for Sarah to pull up in the parking lot. She was right on time. She had always been punctual. Eli liked that a lot. Natasha had always been late to everything, and it had always been a point of friction between them.
Eli didn’t know what an appropriate greeting would be so he just said hi, but refrained from hugging.
They entered the park and walked for a while, mostly silent, until Eli began to speak.
“Thanks for coming. And sorry about my dad yesterday. He is usually pretty cool …”
“Same. Sorry about mine too. And about my mom, she is pretty assertive. They are both really great normally. Just this is a bit outside their comfort zone.”
They had now reached a bench and sat down.
“Way outside mine too, to be honest. I mean, not blaming you or anything, I know we are both in this equally, but still. I always thought if I ever have a kid, it would be different. Planned, not the Cameron curse.” Eli said.
“The – what?” Sarah looked at him confused.
“In my family unplanned pregnancies at the worst possible time are kind of a thing.”
“Oh, thanks for the warning. After the fact.” she giggled, making Eli smile.
“So what are we gonna do, Sarah?” he said, serious again, worry reflected all over his face.
“Well, they want us married. Honestly, I am not sure what I want. I never imagined myself as a single mom, handing my kid over to the father every so often like a baton in a relay race. This is going to sound so stupid, but I want that baby. Not at first, I admit it, I was so in shock for a long time, total denial. I never took a pregnancy test until it was painfully obvious and I had to go to the doctor. I never told my parents until they basically cornered me about it after I couldn’t hide it anymore. I don’t know why, my parents are great. Guess I just thought if I ignore it, it would just go away. Never thought I’d be one of those girls. And I really do not want to live at home with my parents and my illegitimate child. My sick uncle is almost too much for my mom already, I cannot drop a baby on her and I do have to work or I will live with them till I am 80. Even if I saved up enough money to get an apartment and you paying child support, I cannot raise a child alone and I cannot ask my mom to watch the baby on top of caring for my sick uncle. She probably would, but I am not gonna. That would be wrong.” Sarah’s voice and expression underlined the desperation of her situation.
“I know this is gonna sound like a platitude but you are not alone. I’m gonna do the right thing here. I am not one of those guys who knock a girl up and then ditch. And I get it. I mean, at first I was like can’t be, this must be some other guys’, but honestly, I kinda know it’s not. I can feel it. But I agree, right now, there is no way either of us can do this alone. I know I couldn’t, so how can I expect you to? My dad is also so worried about the reputation, you know EC Architects and all. And my dad is right, he raised my older brother alone and my parents split up for a while when I was 14 so I had two homes until they got back together. Not gonna lie, that was rough on him. And even when I was younger I knew my dad was always worried and stretched thin with work and us kids. I do get why he thinks we should marry.”
“Yeah … I know. But I can already hear the rumors about how I got myself knocked up to reel you in. The big architect with his daddy’s big company. Ka-ching goes the gold digger.”
“You’d have to dig for a real long time then. Not like we’re rich or anything. I mean, we’re doing okay, but not anything worth going through such lengths for. Besides, for what it’s worth, I know you are not a gold digger. I own this, we both screwed up and now we are getting the bill. I am not looking forward to the rest of my family and friends finding out about all this, listening to all their dumb input. Not like you and I didn’t know any better, we just messed up.”
“So, are we really doing this? Like, get married at 22? Seems to be the general parental consensus and sounds like neither of us have any other noteworthy options or the means to dig in our heels.”
“My dad was married to his first wife at 22 and they had my brother, were happy for a while till she got really sick. It’s doable. My brother got married pretty young and he was one of those never wanting a family. If they can do it … right?”
“So where would we even live? My parents’ place is already too small, since my uncle moved in. He’s got health issues. Chronic. Needs around the clock caretaking. I don’t know about you, but I could at best scrape together enough money for a small apartment, no way I could qualify for a house.”
“Yeah, our own place wouldn’t be happening, at least not right away. We have room at home. And there would always be someone there to watch the baby. My mom does consulting type work from home. And she is going to go full on grandma, believe me. Ask my brother. And he is only her step-son. Helicopter grandma material.”
“Man, this is so weird. Not at all the love story all girls dream of. I really thought I had my shit together. Planning a family was not gonna be on my radar for many more years.” Sarah frowned.
“Ah, too mainstream and old fashioned anyway. We’re gonna set a new trend. After us, everyone will pop out kids at 22. Hashtag breeding frenzy.”
Sarah laughed, and suddenly Eli felt confident again. He remembered all the time they spent together, talking about everything under the sun. She had always been so easy to be with, so easy to talk to. Pity that got mucked up when they did that thing. Real shame. Maybe though with the baby coming, they could overcome the awkwardness. Eventually.
“Hey, come with me, will ya? Wanna show you something.”
By her hand he pulled her along to a tower-like building, up several flights of stairs until they reached the lookout point. She was out of breath, due to the pregnancy, so he pulled her to a bench.
“Wow, it’s gorgeous up here! Brindleton Bay is really pretty.” she said as she sat down.
“You should see it when it’s a clear day. It’s stunning. And so are you. Ok, let’s do this before I choke.”
Elias knelt down before Sarah and held out a small box.
“Sarah Annabelle Winters, will you marry me? I didn’t have a lot of time to research rings since yesterday, obviously, and know nothing about jewelry, but hope you like this one, I liked it right away and it reminded me of you, simple, not as flashy as all the other ones, but elegant, genuine and very beautiful in every light, just like you.”
Sarah looked genuinely surprised, then nodded, fighting back emotions, as he took her hand and placed the ring on it. Perfect fit. However he had figured out her size was a mystery to her.
“Oh, sorry, yes, I will marry you Eli. I was just really surprised, never expected this, that I totally forgot to answer your question.”
Both laughed hugging awkwardly, the feeling of her baby bump against his midsection made Eli weak in the knees.
He was no stranger to kids, his niece and nephew were around a lot and he was a very popular uncle.
But this was his child. Growing inside of her. Very different.
“Hey Sarah, we’ll be okay.” Eli stated.
“Yeah, we will. After all, we both made it through Professor Randall’s class and still graduated, we can do ANYthing.” Sarah agreed.
Yes, this was better than expected, but still a far cry from how wedding proposals went in the movies.
Only in movies would this have ended in them madly in love instantly, riding off into the sunset with not a single dark cloud in the skies to rain on their new found hesitantly sprouting hope. In real life though, awkwardness was the new common theme.
Did he love her? Or just really like her a lot, as a friend? How could he know for sure? If he didn’t love her yet, could you really grow to love a person after you married them? Was this a mistake or the right thing to do?
-to be continued-