Authors: Maria Murnane
Her eyes welled up with tears. “Can you believe it?”
“OH MY GOD!” I yelled again. “You’re going to be a mother! I’m going to be an auntie!”
We had a group hug for a moment, then I pulled away and looked at McKenna again. “If it’s a girl, you’re not going to make her wear a frilly headband, are you?”
She laughed. “Definitely not.”
“Just checking.” I bent down to pat her stomach. “Auntie Waverly’s got your back, my little friend.”
Later that evening, I stood in front of the bookcase along the back wall of my office. I reached up and ran my finger along the photo albums from high school and college.
I pulled down an album and returned to the living room, then sat cross-legged on the couch and opened it. In picture after picture, there she was: McKenna Taylor, my best friend since the first week in the dorms. As I turned the pages and laughed at bad outfit after bad outfit, awful haircut after terrible makeup job, she was by my side. I’d stood by hers at her wedding, when she became McKenna Taylor Kimball, and now she was going to become a mother.
Please don’t leave San Francisco
, I thought. I had so many friends who had done that in the past few years. Gotten married, had a baby, then moved to the suburbs to start the next chapter in their life. It was understandable, of course, but once they moved away, I rarely saw them. I didn’t think I could handle it if McKenna left. She was more than a friend; she was a sister. And as an only child, that meant the world to me.
I knew change was a part of life, but I still hated it.
After dinner the next evening, I curled up on the couch with a blanket and a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream to watch
The Fantasia Barrino Story.
It was on the Lifetime channel, of course, and I shed a few tears along the way. How can anyone not love watching sappy movies on Lifetime?
After Fantasia proved all the haters wrong and triumphed on
, I picked up my phone and called Jake. It had been a few days since our last conversation, and I was excited to share the big news about McKenna and Hunter.
He answered on the second ring. “Hey you, it’s good to hear your voice.”
“Hey back.” I smiled into the phone. “Is it too late to be calling?”
“Nah, it’s good. Plus I’m in Utah right now, so it’s only eleven o’clock here. We play the Jazz tomorrow night.”
“That’s right, I think you mentioned that. I can’t keep track of your crazy schedule.”
“There’s always NBA dot com. It’s really not that hard. And you seem to have a pretty busy schedule yourself these days.”
I didn’t say anything for a moment. Then I looked at the remote control sitting on my lap.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
What is wrong with me?
For another brief moment, there was silence. Then he spoke again.
“Did you have a good weekend?” I loved the natural ease of our banter, but our conversations about weekends could sometimes teeter on the brink of uncomfortable because we didn’t address the fact that they might involve other people. I hadn’t been dating anyone else, and I didn’t really
he’d been dating anyone else, but I didn’t know for sure. And for some reason, I didn’t want to know, especially now that I’d seen that picture in his house. But despite my reservations, I couldn’t get him out of my head.
“The weekend was pretty good.” Then I told him about the call from Scotty and the Valentine’s Day feature for
The Today Show
magazine, and now this? Pretty soon you’ll be on
Dancing with the Stars
“Please, you’ve seen me dance. You think America is ready for that?”
He laughed. “When are you flying to New York?”
“The day before the taping. I guess that means the day before Valentine’s Day.”
Suddenly, I didn’t know what to say next. Is there anything more awkward than talking about Valentine’s Day with a guy you’ve recently slept with for the first time?
I decided to change the subject.
“So hey, guess what else? McKenna’s pregnant!” I said with way too much enthusiasm.
“Really? Already? That was fast.” He sounded genuinely surprised.
Again, I didn’t know what to say next. How quickly I’d managed to find something even
awkward to talk about with a guy I’d recently slept with for the first time.
“I know, but she and Hunter have been together forever, so they’re ready. I think they pulled the goalie the night of the wedding.”
He laughed. “Good for them. They’ll make good parents.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. I know I only saw them together once, but I could tell by the way they interacted with each other.”
“Definitely. I pick up on that sort of thing pretty quickly. I guess it’s the psych minor in me.”
“You and your amateur psychoanalysis. It’s always right on the money, though. Remember how you diagnosed my childhood angst the first time we met?”
He laughed. “I never claimed to be a professional. And everyone has childhood angst.”
“Oh please, your family sounds perfect.”
“Not always. Maybe you should come down to Florida to see what a McIntyre family holiday is like. That would give you the real picture.”
I coughed and felt my cheeks get hot.
Did he just invite me to spend the holidays with his family?
I didn’t respond.
I couldn’t think of anything to say.
Say something, Waverly!
“So, um, how’s your sister doing?” I asked.
He didn’t reply immediately, although why would he after I’d changed the subject like that? Why was I acting so evasive? I wanted to say I would love to spend the holidays with him, that I would love to meet his family, but once again, my brain wasn’t in sync with my big mouth.
“Natalie? She’s good. She’s not due until February, so her doctor gave her the green light to fly. Good thing, because my mom would throw a fit if the whole family weren’t there, especially since my brother and his wife just had their twins.”
“Seems like everyone is having babies these days,” I blurted, suddenly regretting the comment. Why couldn’t I stick to less awkward topics?
Again, he didn’t respond for a moment. I pounded my forehead lightly with my fist.
You suck, Waverly
He broke the silence. “It’ll be great having another kid in the mix. I love the older ones, but they can be little terrors. We’re all hoping for a boy this time though. After four girls, it’s time for some blue in the family. And I’m not just saying that because I went to Duke.”
Another brief silence.
Snap out of it, Waverly.
“You know, the Blue Devils?” he said.
I blinked. “I’m sorry, I spaced for a moment. Yes, Blue Devils, got it.”
“So, I guess you’re headed to Sacramento for Christmas?”
So much for that invitation.
I swallowed. “Yes, but just for a few hours. My dad has to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas night, so I’ll drive to his place late Christmas morning to have lunch with him. Then I’ll come back to San Francisco for dinner with McKenna and Hunter. Nothing too exciting. But then again, spending time with my dad isn’t all that exciting.” My mom died when I was just a baby, so Christmas was always just my Dad and me. The holiday tended to be quiet, relaxing, and for the most part joyful, yet a bit sad as well.
“Too much Scrabble for you?”
I laughed, feeling more like myself and less like an idiot, although at times I couldn’t tell the difference. “Exactly. You can play only so much Scrabble before you have to use words to actually
to each other, and that’s not exactly my dad’s strong suit. I’ve finally accepted it, though. I love him, but I definitely got my Chatty Cathy gene from my mom, or at least that’s what my dad always says. According to him, she could talk the paint off a barn.”
“I bet she was a pistol.”
“Hey now, that’s my dear departed mom you’re talking about. Though I imagine you’re probably correct, as always.”
“I doubt that. You smart. Me not as smart.”
He laughed. “Smartass. It’s too bad that your dad has to work on Christmas, but it’s good to hear that he’s holding down a steady job after being a pro athlete. So many of the guys I work with didn’t finish college, and it’s not clear what they would do for a living if suddenly they couldn’t play ball anymore.”
“Hello? Don’t you think they’d be busy figuring out how to spend their millions?”
He laughed again. “True. It’s a different world now.”
“Exactly. Unfortunately, even if my dad
made it to the big leagues, he played his baseball about thirty years too early to have that problem.”
“But you’re not bitter.”
“Nah, who would want millions in a trust fund? That would totally suck. So hey, speaking of professional sports, tell me more about this South America thing you mentioned. Sounds exciting.”
“It’s Argentina. They’ve offered me a temporary stint in Buenos Aires. Apparently they need a physical therapist who’s fluent in English because so many of the foreign players in the league don’t speak Spanish.”
. I speak enough to get by.”
I pulled my knees up to my chest. “Are you going to go?”
“I’m not sure. I had a great time when I visited Buenos Aires last summer, so it’s tempting. But it wouldn’t be for a couple months, which gives me some time to decide.”
“You should totally go.”
“Sure, why not?”
He didn’t say anything.
I bit my lip.
Why did I say that?
“Maybe I’d even come visit you,” I blurted. I tried to sound playful, hoping he couldn’t tell how anxious I was.
“That’s a long way away, Waverly.” I wasn’t sure if he meant distance or time, and suddenly I was full of doubt—
After I hung up the phone, I grabbed my coat and went for a walk, trying to process what had just happened. I thought about Jake constantly, yet every time he reached out to me, I pulled back in some way. Why was I so convinced he would hurt me? Did he even know how I felt about him?
I held my coat tight around me and walked down Fillmore Street toward Walgreens, suddenly craving chocolate. On the way I passed a new store that specialized in trendy baby clothes and furniture. I hadn’t gone in there yet, but I assumed the entire inventory was overpriced, because everything in Pacific Heights is overpriced. Perhaps I could afford a cute outfit or two for baby Kimball, but probably not much else.
I stopped and peered into the dark window, thinking of the life growing inside McKenna, wondering what taking the next step in my own life would feel like, whatever that step was. Would knowing be more scary that not knowing? Was that what I was afraid of?
I peered into the darkness, but I couldn’t see anything clearly.