"Ma, I'm pregnant." The sentence accidentally ran through her lips as she tried not to gag on the onion clogged meatloaf. She could barely handle it on her best day, and today was certainly not her best day. She sighed as she inwardly chided herself. She was simply thinking about telling her, for chrissake. What the hell was she trying to do, get herself killed at the damn dinner table?
"So." Said Pam, after what felt like an eternity of silence. " I bet you think I'm just gonna accept all of this like I have accepted the rest. The drinking, the sleeping around, the lying." Pam's hazel green eyes were cold, dead. "That greasy, disgusting boyfriend of yours." He beats the hell out of that greasy, disgusting boyfriend of yours who's always leering at my tits and trying to shove his hand down my pants every time you're not looking, Linna thought. Her mother's rant continued. "I suppose that you think that I'm gonna take care of the little bastard while you finish high school. I suppose you have this whole little fantasy planned out in your head, how you are going to handle school, and chores, and a part time job, all while I help you raise little so-and-so."
"Ma..." The rest of the sentence died on Linna's lips. How could she explain to this person, this ice cold, affectionless person, that she was in love? And about to have a baby? That she loved this man more than anything in the world, and for her to be carrying his child, his life, inside of her, made her so thrillingly happy. She had never been good enough for Ma, that was evident. She never did the right thing. And Stefan had certainly never met with her mother's approval, either. Wild dark hair, wild dark eyes; no, every time Stefan had waltzed through the front door of the little second floor walk-up that the two of them shared with whoever her mother's current bedmate was, you could almost feel her mother's hate stream across the living room to the tiny, linoleum covered entryway. But her Ma's hate hadn't mattered, because she loved him, and he loved her; and even though they had no place to go except the back of Stefan's beat up old Cadillac, it didn't matter. Nothing mattered except their love for each other. And their baby.
"Ma my ass, Linna. I'm not gonna take care of some little half- breed Portuguese brat while you go run and play. Get an abortion, Linna. And go find some of those rich relatives Stefan's always braggin' about and get them to pay for it. Because I'm not gonna give you a dime. And I'm tellin' you now, if you don't, so help me God I'll beat it out of ya myself." Pam got up from the table so abruptly she almost made her chair turn over. "And not a word of this to your Dad, either, or he'll beat me to it. Are we clear?"
He's not my dad, Linna wanted to scream at her. Paul was just another guy in a long line of guys that made their way into and out of her mothers life. Some of them were okay, but Linna was a pretty girl, and had quickly gotten used to dodging the quick, rough hands; gotten used to the stench of seaweed and fish from their bodies and their clothes. The men her mother brought home were mostly dock hands, met at The Anchor, her favorite dockside bar. They always stayed more than one night, quickly eying the pretty teen aged girl and her mother's pension check that her Dad's death had left them. Dad had also left them the three family walk-up, and though it was ugly and old now due to neglect, after the tiny mortgage was paid there was a decent sum leftover from the rent. These were men who, though they may have missed every opportunity life handed them, never missed an opportunity to live off of her mother.
Linna looked at her mother, hoping for some shred of compassion, some sharing of joy in this incredibly beautiful thing happening inside her, and found only disgust and anger. And even the tiniest bit of hate. I will never look at my baby like that, thought Linna. I will always love it, and care for it, and help it when it needs me. I will be the best mother any child could wish for. Linna slowly realized that she could never imagine doing what her mother wanted her to do. For the very first time, like a cold blast of air, reality hit her. She was going to have a baby. She would love it, and nurture it, and she would find a way to care for it all on her own. She owned part of the walk-up, too, didn't she? After all, it belonged to her Dad. Her real dad. And he had left it to both of them. So she had as much right to the income, to the living space, as her mother. Didn't she?
Linna sighed. She had too many other things to worry about tonight. Like telling Stefan what she had just told her ma. She was meeting him in about an hour down at the Snapshot, his favorite pool hall. And even though she was two years younger than Stefan and too young to go in, the owner knew them, and even let her have a beer every now and then, which was nothing compared to the gin that Stefan was old enough to buy, teasing her and calling her a baby when she wanted orange juice to mix with it because it tasted like pine needles.
Linna entered the Snapshot and scanned the dimly lit room. There were ribbons of cigarette smoke whose odor mixed with the smell of old, sour beer. She spotted Stefan and called to him. He smiled when he saw her, and she smiled back. And for a few brief moments when he crushed her in his arms, she forgot all of her trouble with Ma and Paul, and the baby, too. After Stefan had had his fill of the Snapshot, they left to his car, a beat up old Cadillac that his dad had helped him buy when he was fifteen. It hadn't gotten any less beat up in the subsequent three years. Stefan liked to race and demolition derby, and the old Caddy showed it. They climbed in car and raced off, probably, Linna thought, to the liquor store and then off to Lemonade Rock. She predicted right. Lemonade Rock was a huge piece of stone shaped vaguely like a lemon that had been split down the middle. In the summertime, kids would crawl into the big split, and the wide dirt bottom was lined with empty cans of Miller, Pabst Blue Ribbon and St. Pauli's Girl, ripped pantyhose, used condoms and the occasional bra. Lots of broken glass, too, so if you weren't careful you could get a nasty gash. Tonight it was March, though, so they sat in the parked car together as they had so many times before. "Want some gin, babe?" Stefan asked, and Linna shook her head a silent no. She had first felt so elated when she found out she was pregnant, so excited to tell Stefan, but after her Ma's reaction, she had begun to be filled with more and more doubt about Stefan's reaction.
Stefan had poured himself a large gin in a paper cup kept exclusively for such occasions, and glanced over at Linna. She looked frowning, serious, and for the first time since he had known her, unsmiling. "What's up, Lin?" he asked her, hoping it wasn't too serious. Maybe she had seen him flirting with that waitress whats-her-name over at the 'Shot. "Stefan," Linna said "I have to tell you something. Stefan, I'm pregnant."
For what seemed an eternity, Linna waited. She waited for a smile, a fight, an accusation of infidelity, something. But nothing happened. She finally ventured a timid, "Stefan?"
"Shut up, Lin." So Linna shut up and waited some more.
Stefan sat behind the wheel and thought. And smoked. And thought some more. Shit, his old man was already on his case about every little thing, bitching about him getting a better job or going out on the docks this summer to haul fish. Ever since his mother had died, his old man just hadn't been the same. Neither had he, he thought. Neither had he. And now this. Shit, he still lived with Pop, down by the docks, with Bruce and Misty. And even though Bruce was old enough to be moved out on his own, Pop kept him around because he'd always been a hard worker and made good money. And Misty wasn't going anywhere until she got married; who would take care of all of the shit that needed to be done around the house? Where would he and Lin live? There was hardly room at the house he shared with his Pop and his brother and sister. And he wasn't living with that bitch of a Ma of hers, and her stinking boyfriend, either. With an inward laugh full of irony, he realized the impossible. What the hell was he thinking? Like Pop would let him live with this chick, still in high school, just sixteen, and not even Portuguese? And how did he know that it was even his? Sighing, he knew that that was unfair. Even just to think about it. He'd been Linna's first, knew it by the dried blood on his backseat the next day. Linna was in love with him. That had been clear since they first got together four months ago. He doubted that she'd been with anyone else, he knew her too well. Besides, he was a little in love with her, too, and they spent every minute her damn Ma would allow together. But a baby? How the hell was he supposed to support a family? He could barely keep Pop off his back about rent, and barely had enough for gas and beer, the occasional bottle of gin or an eight track. And his Pop was gonna go apeshit when he heard about this one. That was certain. Stefan sighed again. Well, maybe Linna could live with her Ma till she had the baby, and graduated high school. Then she could get a job and help support the kid, too. He supposed Misty would help babysit and so would Linna's Ma. He had another inward chuckle at that and decided only if it was really necessary. Who needed more people out there like Linna's Ma? He could stay with his Pop till Lin graduated, and by then she'd be seventeen and able to get married if her Ma said so. Things would work themselves out, he figured. And hell, most of his friends had kids already or were about to. And it wasn't like he was on the fast track to some ivy covered school, or anything. There was the small problem about Linna not being Portuguese, but hell, Buddy Pacheco had married that little Lithuanian chick from Worcester, so why not? Maybe Pop would just get over it in time and Misty could teach her how to cook properly, god knows he wasn't going to eat that shit her Ma slopped around for the rest of his life. For the rest of his life. That phrase reverberated around in his head, and for a quick moment Stefan wanted to bolt. He steadied himself, flicked his cigarette out of the window, and turned to look at Linna. She was so pale, her face glowed like the moon. Her blue eyes were huge with fear, fear of rejection, but also steady and determined. He took a deep breath and said, "I love you, Lin. Have you told your Ma yet?"
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