“I don’t know how I’m going to tell him.”
“How did you tell him before?” Veronica asked, her quiet voice like a little chirp over the phone.
“I didn’t the first time and the second time he was there.” Harriet rubbed her face. “We’ve only been married three months Vee. And now it’s twice as bad and he’s already been in a bad mood for weeks.”
Poor Andrew had a heap of trouble dropped on him the last month or so. It started, naturally, with Quinn. He had a delusion that one of the other patients was a vampire and it was his sworn duty to protect humanity from his evil ways. This of course ended with him getting tackled to the ground by a bunch of orderlies after he tried to shank the poor kid with a sharpened tooth brush. He got locked up in solitary for three days and then another week after he tried to go after the orderly that had given him a black eye trying to stop him.
In addition to that, one of his uncles had gotten diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. And, though not as bad, his father’s ears were starting to go.
Francesca was now pressuring Andrew to start designing more clothes instead of just making them. Sure Andrew liked throwing together fabrics and various cuts and what not, but actually trying to make a line of clothing was proving difficult for him. Harriet thought it was all wonderful, but Andrew had a thing with self-doubt.
But perhaps worst of all was Em who had accepted a job as a band teacher at a high school four hours away. Em was happy about it, thrilled actually, and Harriet had no doubts about him being able to relate to his teenaged students. But Andrew…when he had heard his friend wouldn’t be home whenever they visited their parents in LA…well, his heart had been broken.
“He sounded nice enough when I talked to him this morning.” Vee told her. Andrew had recently hired her on as the accountant for his business and so far, she was doing wonderfully. She and Harriet had started talking again a little bit after the wedding and those old strings of friendship had tied back together to easily it was amazing to think they had ever been severed.
“I’m thinking of calling Em and asking what I should do.” Harriet said. His job didn’t start until September, but he was still busy with moving. This was an emergency though, he had to help her.
“He’ll just tell.” Vee said. “You know he can’t keep a secret. Just…tell him Harriet. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ve got to go, but call me once you’ve told him.”
Harriet said her goodbyes and hung up. What was the worst that could happen? Well, she though, I suppose we’re going to find out.
By the time Andrew got home, he had a pulsing head ache behind his right eye and a hankering for a cold beer. He unlocked the door and it pushed in easily, so unlike the guard-dog door of his childhood. Something smelled good. Andrew dropped his keys in the blown glass key bowl and headed off to find whatever it was.
Chris and Martin had both moved out earlier that year and Jacob was away for the week, leaving him and Harriet alone for the week. Only she was supposed to be at work, but her car was already in the drive. When he entered the kitchen, he found Harriet pressing M&Ms into a Rice Crispy Treat.
“Hello.” Andrew said and Harriet jumped back a foot, her hand flying to her heart.
“Andrew! God you scared me!”
“Sorry.” He said, approaching her slower. She had on a pretty black dress and pearl earrings with her hair up. Andrew didn’t question it, he just grabbed her hips and pulled her to him. “You look beautiful.”
“You don’t look so bad yourself.” She said, laying her palms flat against his chest over his sharp black jacket.
“Gotta sell the product.” He said and kissed her fully on the lips.
He had planned to come home and drag Harriet upstairs into the tub and take a long, hot bubble bath together. Then he wanted to carry her to bed and have some wonderful $ex and then finish up the night with some Boy Meets World. But he supposed he could fit whatever this was into his schedule.
“Dinner’s on the table.” She said, putting his glasses back to rights. “Spaghetti and garlic bread.”
“All my favorite foods?” He asked, squeezing her hips. She had one nice set of hips. He slid his hands forward and down her backside, pressing her up against him. She was eating good lately, since their wedding. Normally she was so busy with work that she would forget to eat all day and then wonder why she felt sick. It made him happy to go she was taking more time for herself.
“Yep.” She swallowed harshly, her eyes flickering around, looking anywhere but at him. “Shall we?”
“Lead the way lovely lady.” He said and she put a smile on her red stained lips.
They sat down to a candle light dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread and salad, a beer for Andrew, chocolate milk, one of her very favorite drinks. Not that she seemed to be enjoying it. She hardly ate anything, though she had cooked it all. She sat quietly as he talked about his day and only offered the barest details when he asked about why she was home early.
“I wasn’t feeling well.” She said. “Martin sent me home early.”
Martin had taken over as Harriet’s supervisor now that Chris lived in Boston, working as a surgeon in a different hospital. Harriet had said that, though the job was getting harder, at least the work place was more relaxed. She missed Chris though, missed both her cousins. But that was months ago and didn’t explain why she was acting so strange now.
“The man who owns Saint Marie’s just bought a place about forty-five minutes away from where Em moved.” Andrew told her over a sip of beer. It was awful, but it washed down well with the garlic bread. “We should look at it when it’s finished.”
Harriet just nodded to her food and said, “Uh-huh.”
Andrew put his fork down on his plate and wiped his mouth on the cloth napkin and looked at Harriet. “Ok. Harrie. What’s wrong?”
Harriet just liked her lips nervously and continued staring down into her plate.
Andrew’s mind and heart went totally still, not a single thought went through his head as she began to trip over her own tongue.
“Five weeks. I mean, I am. Pregnant.”
“I thought we agreed,” Andrew said, his voice warped and low. “Not to do that. We agreed that we weren’t doing thus again.”
“I…” Harriet just stared at him, breathing wrackedly through her mouth.
“We agreed because we both knew that we would just lose it again. Because with every failed pregnancy, the chances become worse and worse.” Andrew could barely breathe, barely think. “Have—have you even thought about this? When did you find out?”
“I had Delores do an sonogram today…” She said quietly. “But I’ve known for days. I think a mother always knows.”
Andrew’s chest tightened. “God damn it Harriet! We agreed! No kids!”
“But,” Her voice wavered. “When we were going to have Everett…and in London—you acted like you wanted one!”
“I threw a quarter into a dried up fountain.” Andrew was clenching his fist so hard his nails were breaking skin. “You know, I used to wish for a pet tiger when I was little. That didn’t mean I wanted my parents to go out and buy me one! Do you know why? Because it’s a terrible decision!”
“Andrew please!” Harriet was crying now, begging.
“You’re just going to lose it again Harriet. Do you want that? Do you understand that?” Andrew stood up so fast his chair fell backward and slammed into the floor. “And I’m just going to have to pick you up off the floor again. And what about me?”
“Please, stop.” She sobbed.
“After Everett, you only cared how you felt!” He was screaming now. “You never once thought about me! What happens if you go along with the baby this time? What do I do then? It would kill me Harriet, kill me, if something happened to you! But what would you care? It’s Harriet, Harriet, Harriet, all the time, isn’t it?”
“No,” She said, standing up too, though not with nearly enough conviction to make this an even fight. “It’s about them. It’s about Everett and the baby who never even got a chance to be named. I tried, Andrew. You think I wanted to lose Everett? I would kill myself and you and my parents and everyone if that meant he could come back. But he’s gone. And these babies—”
“Babies?” Andrew stared at her. “Babies?! Twins? Are you fu¢king kidding me?!”
“Please, stop yelling.” She was grabbing her napkin like it could somehow save her from her own stupidity.
“No! No I will not stop yelling!” Andrew jumped up and down twice and shook his head and slammed his fist down on the table, doing anything to try to get the anger out. “Why is it that every time I turn around you’re knocked up?”
“You should know!” She shouted back, a breeze to his hurricane. “You’re the one who said that we didn’t have to always use condoms. Like a marriage certificate was somehow a safeguard against pregnancy.”
“You’re supposed to be on the pill! It’s not my fault you’re irresponsible!”
“What would you have me do then, Andrew?” She threw the napkin down on the table. “Get rid of them? Abort our children?”
“Yes.” He pointed a finger at her. “It’s better to lose them now rather than wait until they’re whole human beings. You didn’t even look at Everett. You were too much of a coward to look at your own son. He was beautiful Harriet, beautiful. He looked so much like you. I can’t—I can’t do that again!”
“If I do that, they won’t even have a chance.”
“They already don’t have a chance.” Andrew threw his hands up. “Why wait until they can feel pain? Or can they already feel it? How would I know? You’re the doctor right, the one with all the answers?”
“Stop that! I don’t know any more about this than you do.”
“All I know is that they’re going to die and it’s going to kill you and that’s going to kill me. They’re going to die no matter what you do.”
“You don’t know that!” She shouted. “At least this way they have a chance at life. If the only help I can give them is just a chance, then I have to.”
Andrew laughed into his hand and shook his head. “When you’re sitting in the hospital with nothing but two corpses to bury,” He said. “Don’t come crying to me.”
Andrew stormed out of the house and got into his car, barely able to feel his body. He wasn’t sure where he was driving or even what direction, but he drove for what felt like hours, days, years. The sky darkened eventually until the only light that filled the world was that of car lights and the moon and the few stars that could make their way out of the smog of the distant city.
He jerked the steering wheel and pulled off sharply onto the shoulder of the road, causing a ripple of honking horns behind him as the driver behind him panicked and slammed on his breaks, causing other drivers to swerve. None were hurt. That was good, he supposed.
The car became filled with his stuffy breath and he couldn’t get the taste of beer out of his mouth. He shouldn’t be driving. There was blood on the steering wheel from when he had squeezed his hand so tightly. He shouldn’t have done that. He shouldn’t have yelled at her like that.
Andrew let out a wordless scream and slammed his hands against the wheel, running them through his hair and screaming as he ripped them through his tangled curls, ripped entire strands from his head. Where were his glasses?
“Why always with the glasses?” He asked himself, asked no one.
His eyes found the rear-view mirror and he screamed as he beheld two little girl sitting in the back seat, their eyes boring into his through the mirror. He flipped around in the seat and found—nothing. There was nothing there. No little girls, no nothing. He slowly turned back, total panic racing through his blood. Was someone watching him? Had someone known he’d yelled at Harriet like that? What was in that beer? Had Harriet put something in it when he wasn’t looking? Was she trying to get rid of him before he got rid of them?
“Help me.” A voice whispered, like a little girl trapped in a well.
He whimpered when he heard it, his hands flying to his ears.
Breathe Andrew. He told himself. Just breathe.
He took his hands away from his ears. There was nothing there. No one had drugged him. He was just tired and scared and maybe a little drunk.
“I’m sorry Harrie.” He whispered, tears dripping down his face in earnest. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
They left him alone after that.
“Honey, I’m home.”
Harriet jerked up, knocking herself in the nose with her own hand as she leapt up from her chair at the dinner table. She hadn’t moved since Andrew stormed out hours ago. Hope swelled in her chest as she heard the front door close. Andrew had come home after all.
But even as she straightened her dress and tried to rub the dried tears from her face, a flicker of doubt flashed in the back of her mind. It proved right when it was not her curly haired, glasses wearing Andrew, but blue eyes, long haired Em with the scar at the corner of his mouth stretched with his smile.
It faded as he took in Harriet’s tear stained face, the messy table and the broken glass. He looked around and dropped a stolen airline blanket on the floor before looking back at Harriet. “Where’s Andrew?”
“He’s gone.” She whispered, feeling the ache in her soul.
Em took cautious steps forward as if she were a frightened animal. “What do you mean he’s gone?”
“He’s gone,” She repeated. “He left.”
“I don’t know.”
“When is he getting back?”
“I don’t know.” And with that the dam broke again. The tears came in earnest, wracking her body so hard she started shaking violently.
“Harriet.” He rushed forward and grabbed her, sitting her back down in her chair. She clung to him, just needing something to hold onto, something of Andrew even if it was just his best friend. He stroked her hair and squeezed her tight. “$hit Harriet. I never thought he would. I—what happened?”
“I t-t-told him I’m pregnant,” She sobbed into Em’s shoulder. “And he freaked out and left.”
She felt the momentary freeze in Em’s body as he registered what she’d just said. He let out a sigh and pulled back, keeping his hands on Harriet’s shoulders as he knelt down beside the chair. He sighed again, squeezing his eyes shut as if he could just block it out. He couldn’t, she knew. She’d already tried.
“I’m not trying to make excuses for him,” Em said at last. “But I know why he did it and it’s not because he’s mad.”
“Why then?” She demanded, staring at the broken glass and half-dried beer on the floor.
“He’s scared Harriet.” He said.
“I’m scared too and I didn’t run off like that. I’m the one who was broken last time, not him.” She sniffed. “Never him.”
Em looked around, his eyes suddenly looking everywhere but at her.
“What is it?” She asked, wanting to just shake it out of him.
Em finally looked at her, though his expression was pained. “He made me promise never to tell you. Or anyone.”
“He also promised to always love me and love is not what broke that bottle.”
“Alright, just…” He sighed and rubbed his face, his mouth. His scar still hurt sometimes though he pretended it didn’t. He was scared of dogs too because of it. He sighed. “After you first lost Everett… he called me one night, totally drunk. He said…he said—”
Em’s entire face was wrought with inner pain. “He said he was going to kill himself. Said he was sitting on the railing of the balcony with a cable around his neck. He said he was going to jump.”
Harriet’s hands flew to her mouth. No, no not Andrew.
Em went on. “He said he was calling just to say goodbye and that he loved me. Said he wanted me to have the signed Aerosmith poster we’d been fighting about forever. Like that was more important than his life. I was only able to talk him down by asked what Quinn would do without him. I flew out here the next day.”
She was shaking, freezing despite the warm summer. “I—I never knew.”
Em looked at her sadly. “I know.”
She vaguely recalled Em being here in those early weeks, but she was so focused on her own misery…
“He scared himself so badly that night.” Em said. “He wasn’t himself. He hasn’t really been himself since then, maybe even before. He seems himself on the outside, but there are moments that I wonder…”
Em shrugged. “Just wonder. All I’m saying Harriet is that he’s scared. Because if god forbid something happens to the baby…he’s just scared is all. Scared for the baby, scared for you. Scared for him.”
Harriet nodded. Like Em said, it didn’t excuse it, but at least she knew now. She hadn’t noticed anything off with Andrew, but she also didn’t know him like Em did, hadn’t known him growing up.
She felt something move inside her, just something tiny, like a bug crawling across her stomach. She knew that feeling, she’d felt it before. Only this time she wasn’t filled with overwhelming joy.
All she could think about was finding Andrew’s lifeless body, a cord wrapped around his neck.