Melissa Jacobson was borrowing her mother's minivan to run some errands. She had her younger sister, thirteen-year-old Mary, and her younger brother, eleven-year-old Thomas, with her. Mary was seated in the passenger seat and Thomas sat on the two-person bench in the middle row.
"It looks like that girl's crying, Melissa," said Mary.
"I know who that is. That's Penny Andrews," said Melissa. She pulled up alongside the curb and used the switch to lower the passenger-side window. "Hey, Penny, do you need a ride?" she asked.
Penny stopped and looked up. "Can you take me to Jeremy's house?" she asked.
"Sure-come on in. Thomas-open the door for her, would you please?"
The boy opened the door and Penny got in and sat beside him. "Thanks," she said.
"What's wrong?" asked Mary.
Penny thought about snapping at the young girl, but thought better of it. Melissa was being nice about helping her, the least she could do was act grateful. "I think I'm pregnant," she said.
"What are you planning on doing?" Melissa asked as she pulled away from the curb.
"Probably wind up getting an abortion. I've still got this year and senior year," Penny sniffed. "But I need to tell Jeremy."
"Where does Jeremy live?" Melissa asked.
Penny told her, and Melissa headed in that direction. "Penny, an abortion won't solve anything," she said gently.
"How about the fact that my dad will toss me out on my butt when he gets wind of it?" Penny asked.
"I'm sure my parents will help you," said Melissa. "In fact, my older sister Lisa volunteers at the local crisis pregnancy center. I knit and crochet afghans and baby things and donate them, so mothers will have clothes for their babies."
Finally they came to Jeremy's house. "Do you want me to go in with you?" asked Melissa.
"I'll be okay. Just wait outside for me, would you?" Penny requested.
Penny got out of the van, noticed that the Explorer was in the driveway. She went up to the door and rang the doorbell.
A minute later Jeremy came to the door, saw Penny, and smiled. "What brings you here?" Jeremy asked. "Is that Melissa Jacobson out there?"
"Yeah, she brought me," Penny said as she stepped in. "Jeremy...I think I'm pregnant."
"You're kidding," Jeremy said, shaking his head. "You sure it's mine?"
"Jeremy!" Penny cried.
"Had to make sure...what are you gonna do?"
"I was thinking get rid of it."
"I don't think that's a very good idea, Pen."
"Why not? My dad will kill me."
"Well...my sister had an abortion a few years ago. She said that she felt relieved right after it was done...but a little later she regretted it. She still does. She used to have nightmares about a baby crying out to her and asking why. My parents didn't want her to have it done. That was their grandchild. She's married now and she has a newborn son, but she keeps thinking there should be two children in her house, not just one."
"I didn't know..."
"It's not exactly something we discuss a lot," said Jeremy as he sat down in the living room.
"It's all my fault. I seduced you," Penny said, the tears starting again.
"Penny...I'm not exactly blameless here either," Jeremy sighed. "We have to do what's right. And that means we go tell your father what's going on. He has a right to know. We're also going to talk to my parents when they get home later on."
"Melissa's waiting out in her van...if you want to go," said Penny.
"Well, let's go then." Jeremy got up.
The couple came out and got into the van, making their way to the third-row bench. "My house," Penny said to Melissa. She then told her where it was. "Jeremy, I'm really scared."
"Penny-if your dad throws you out, I think my parents would take you in," Melissa said. "They've done that before."
"Really?" asked Penny.
"You really think we pro-lifers just sit around and talk about saving babies' lives and don't lift a finger to help?" asked Melissa.
"Apparently not all of you," said Penny.
"I'd like for her to keep our baby," said Jeremy.
Finally Melissa pulled into Penny's driveway, behind Penny's father's old Chevrolet. "Jeremy, come with me," said Penny.
"Of course," said Jeremy.
The two got out of the van. "I'll wait here for you," said Melissa. "Meanwhile I'm going to give my parents a call on my cell phone and let them know what's taking me so long."
"Is she really going to stay with us?" asked Thomas.
"That remains to be seen, Tom," Melissa replied.
"Where've you been, Penny?" Mr. Andrews asked. He was in boxers and an undershirt, a beer in hand.
"Taking a pregnancy test, Dad. It's positive. Jeremy and I are going to have a baby."
"WHAT!?" Mr. Andrews screamed as he slammed his can of beer down on the kitchen counter. Beer sloshed out of the can, spilling onto his hand and the counter. He directed his attention to Jeremy. "Just what were you thinking, Casanova, getting my daughter pregnant!?"
"Dad, it takes two to tango," Penny reminded him.
"Well, you tango your butt out of here! Get out! I don't want to see you again! You're too much like your mother!" Mr. Andrews raged.
"Come on, Penny," said Jeremy.
The two hurried out the door. Penny was in tears as they climbed back into the Jacobsons' minivan. "He told me to get out," she sobbed as Jeremy held her.
"Well, let's take you to my parents' house," said Melissa. "You need someplace to stay."
John and Sally Jacobson were sitting on the couch when their children came in with Jeremy and Penny. "This must be Penny," said Mrs. Jacobson as she stood up. "I'm Melissa's mother."
"Hi," said Penny nervously.
Mr. Jacobson turned to a boy and girl who were standing there. "Our eight-year-old twins, Steven and Stephanie," he said. "Why don't you two go fix up the guest room for Penny? She'll be staying with us for a while."
The twins rushed to obey their father. "Okay, Daddy," they said.
"How many children do you have?" Jeremy asked, sounding amused, trying to break the ice.
"Eight. Four boys and four girls," Mr. Jacobson replied. "Our oldest, John Jr., just got married last month. Lisa is at the crisis pregnancy center. Then we have Brian, he's out with his church friends, then you've met Melissa, Mary, Thomas, and the twins."
"Wow, must take a bit of money to feed everyone," Jeremy said.
"It does. But Brian helps out-he has a part-time job and he contributes. Lisa also has a part-time job besides volunteering at the CPC, and John Jr. has good-paying full-time job so he can support himself and his wife," said Mr. Jacobson.
"Sounds good," said Penny.
"Did you manage to get any clothes, dear?" asked Mrs. Jacobson.
Penny shook her head. "I just ran. Dad doesn't want to see me anymore."
"Well, we'll take care of that," said Mr. Jacobson. "Penny, you're more than welcome to stay here. We have room, and we'll take care of you. Lisa can talk with you, and you can decide whether to keep your baby or adopt out."
"We still have to talk to my parents," said Jeremy. "I have a feeling, though, that my parents wouldn't mind babysitting while Penny's at school."
"I'm still not sure what to do about that," Penny said.
"It's a big change, being a mother," Mrs. Jacobson said. "We'll help you in whatever you decide."