I'd gained weight. Not much weight, not even a noticeable amount. But I had, in fact, gained weight. It was just a few pounds, but I examined myself in the mirror carefully on Sunday morning. Did I look pregnant? Was there some sort of pregnancy glow that people would notice at church? I pushed back the thought and brushed my short hair free of the tangles it was so prone to.
Six hours. That was the amount of time I had to wait to tell my mother and Mark's parents that he had gotten me pregnant. I didn't know his parents very well, and they had only just barely accepted me as Mark's girlfriend; they seriously disliked the age difference. How could I blame them? But I hadn't known how old Mark was when we started going out and by the time I learned, I was attached enough that I decided not to give him up. Six hours. I was trying to imagine his parent's reaction to my pregnancy. Could it be possible that they would accept it as happily as Mark and Ari had? No way. That wasn't an option; I crossed it off in my mind. They might ask for a paternity test, or they may even ask me not to ever see Mark again. Mark wanted to marry me. What would they feel about it?
I was afraid to think of my mother's reaction. She had gotten pregnant out of wedlock as well, although she was ten years older when she got pregnant; she had been through college and established the beginnings of a life already. She was going to be doubly disappointed in me, because she wanted me to have a better life than she did. Then again, what was to say that I couldn't? Mark was accepting and I could still, technically, go to college and finish my education with a baby, couldn't I? It would be more difficult now, but I could do it. I can. I will. Six hours.
During Youth Education (they called it that, but it was basically Sunday School; they didn't want it to sound drab and boring), I sat in my usual chair with my knees hugged to my chest. I knew full well that I wasn't showing yet, but it made me feel more sheltered and protected. Out of the usual, I wore Mark's brown corduroy jacket over my jeans and T-shirt as an added layer of safety. There were two groups of people in "Youth Education", my group and the other, popular-people group. In my group, there was Else, Cathryn, myself, Mark, Damien, and Benjy. The other group—well, they're not so important. My group all talked around me as our teachers, Matt and Cane tried to make bible stories as cool as possible.
"Hey, are you ok?" Damien asked. He had known me since birth and probably recognized that I was feeling awkward.
"Oh, I'm fine," I said glancing at Mark, "Just tired." Damien shrugged but he watched me closely, and when Matt and Benjy saw that, they did as well. I loved my friends. I hung back when the hour of Education was up and caught Matt's eye. I didn't have a dad, but Matt came pretty close to one; he acted like my dad, and I wanted to gauge a parental-like unit's reaction on my pregnancy before I told the parents that were actually involved.
"I'll be there in a bit," I said to Mark quietly who was waiting for me by the door. He shrugged and walked out, closing the door behind him.
"Is something wrong?" Matt asked. I stood by the pool table and pushed the 8 ball around.
"I'm pregnant," I said quietly.
"What?" Matt inquired slowly.
"I'm pregnant, Mark got me pregnant," I repeated slightly louder, glancing at the door.
"You're pregnant?" Matt said, "You're pregnant…when? I mean, how far along are you?" I took in the look on his face. It was a combination of shock, anger, sadness, and something else. Disappointment? Pity? Fear? What was it?
"I'm…almost two months," I replied, pushing the 8 ball away from me, aiming at one of the middle pockets; I missed by a long shot.
"How do you feel about it?" He asked. I hadn't expected him to ask that. I turned and sat next to him on the couch.
"Well…this may sound crazy, but I'm kind of happy," I replied. He was silent so I continued, "Mark and I are telling our parents today after church and I just… I just wanted to see what an adult reaction would be like." He took my hand and smiled.
"How does Mark feel?"
"He's excited; he said, he said that he broke the condom on purpose. He wanted me to get pregnant, I guess," I said.
"If you're both happy, Pamela, then that's all that matters," He said. A wide smile broke out on both our faces. I hugged him, and I felt that he held me more tightly then he had in previous hugs. Did I imagine it?
"Thank you," I whispered, "I hope they react the way you did."
We all sat at the long, solid table of Mark's parent's dining room eating chicken. I had a piece of it, myself, but I focused more on the veggies and prayed that this afternoon, my morning sickness would not visit me. I felt a soft kick from across the table. Mark caught my eye and nodded. He thought that we should tell them now. I couldn't see that any other time would be better or worse so I nodded back.
"So," I began and all heads turned to me, "I'm pregnant." Everyone stopped eating. My mother's face was impassive, but Mark's parents, Julia and Paul looked horrified. Mark's 12-year old brother, Andrew began to laugh.
"Yeah, right!" He said turning back to his food, but as the silence continued, he stopped and looked back at me, "Oh my God," He said.
"Please tell me you're joking," Julia said quietly.
"She wouldn't joke about that!" My mother defended her voice overly loud in a state of anxiety.
"It's my fault!" Mark blurted out. I noticed that he hadn't eaten much of his food.
Andrew snorted, "Well, duh!" I wanted to laugh as well; I wanted Andrew's young age to break the tension, but everyone's face remained stoically serious.
"Andrew, upstairs!" Paul said in his low, bass voice. Andrew pulled a face, but trudged upstairs regardless.
"Look," I said, "I know that this is difficult for you guys, because of the age difference, but I swear that this is Mark's baby, and that I won't drag him down. I want us both to stay in school and finish school! But we'll need your guys' help for that. It'll be work but I swear, I swear…"
"I cannot believe this!" Julia said pushing her plate away from her.
"You have me on your side, honey," My mother said. But her eyes and smile said, "I'll reprimand you at home!" I stared down at my plate. I felt so awful.
"Mark, we talked about this," Paul began. My mind was racing. Talked about what? I assumed sex.
"I know, Dad, but—look; don't blame Pam for this, ok? She thought we were being safe, she made sure that I had a condom on, but I—"
"Mark!" I tried to interrupt.
"—I broke the condom on purpose!" He finished looking at me with a hard expression on his face.
"What?" Paul asked.
"Why?" Julia stared at her son like she stared at something crude on television.
"Because, I thought if she got pregnant then we wouldn't be broken up when she went off to college. So it's my fault," By the time he was finished he was standing up, "I know that it wasn't the right thing to do, but I wanna make it right. I wanna marry Pam!"
"Mark!" I said, cringing, I wasn't sure this was the right time to do this. Then something I didn't expect happened. Paul folded his hands on the edge of the table and closed his eyes.
"If Pamela and her mother agree, then yes, Mark, you may get married," He said.
"Paul!?" Julia all but shrieked.
"He got the girl pregnant, he should take the responsibility, Julia," Paul looked at her intently.
"But—"She looked at me, "You're sure?" She asked me.
"I took a home test and then I went to my OB-GYN to make sure," I replied, "I am almost two months pregnant; I found out last week for sure."
"There you go, Julia, he should marry her." Julia sat resigned. She was the kind of woman who didn't go against her husband.
"Pamela?" My mother said.
"Yes, I'll marry you," I said quietly.
"It's fine with me, then," My mother agreed.
"Here's what will happen," Paul began. I looked at my mother to see if she resented being left out of the planning, but she simply looked at Paul, "Mark, you and Pamela will get an apartment just off campus. You will take the bus to school and take a job after school. Pamela will not get a job during the school year, but you will both take one during the summer to help pay for the apartment. Once a week or more, you will go to both houses for dinner, or lunch. You will continue to go to church. Pamela, when do you graduate?"
"Uh, June first," I replied. He nodded.
"You will get married in June. I understand that you have a trip to the Shakespeare festival for a class after graduation? See if Mark can go with you. You will not have a honeymoon; you can have that when you get older." He paused, "Any more details, we can work out at a later date. Let's eat while the food is still warm, Mark, call your brother."
"Why didn't you tell me?" My mother asked quietly.
"I-I didn't want you to call Mark's parents before we could tell them. And we didn't want there to be any uproar over who we told first so we planned to tell you both together?" I said.
"But-didn't you trust me with this? I bet you told Ari? I mean, Pam—I thought I'd always made it clear that you could trust me with anything! I wouldn't have told Mark's parents if you had asked me not to! I was worried sick about! I was getting ready to call the doctor behind your back about your being sick with the stomach flu for so long. Do you have any idea how awful this is?"
"I'm sorry," I said. I let her continue to rant all the way home. She deserved to, I felt, and in some way, I deserved it too, for lying to her. I wondered if Mark was getting the same treatment in his home. When we pulled in to the driveway, my mother fell silent.
"We'll get through this, Pam, I'm just…I'm disappointed in you." Then she got out of the car and walked into the house. I felt so awful. I felt terrible, and the terribleness inside me made me sick to my stomach. I got out of the car and threw up in the bushes, holding my hair out of my face. Did I have any idea? What about her? Did she have any idea how scared I was? How much I wanted her willing support? How was it possible that my boyfriend and my best friend took it ten times better than my mother? Wasn't she supposed to accept me good, bad, or otherwise? Should we have told the parents separately after all?
Six hours later, conflict floated around inside me. I sat on the window seat staring at the few stars I could see in the city lights thinking about the whole afternoon. I was upset that my mother wasn't speaking to me she was so angry, but I was happy I was pregnant. I was hurt that she couldn't say to me more convincingly that she would be there for me, but I was relieved that Mark had stood up for me. And I was happy that he wanted to marry me. I didn't even hate Paul's plans for the rest of my life. At least Matt didn't live too far from campus; maybe he could be the accepting parent I longed for so much. I hated today.