On an early April spring morning in San Diego, Bill and Jen sipped coffee and Baileys on the cedar wood deck of Bill’s shoreline condo; then, she gave him the news.
A thick mist clung to Mission Bay’s calm waters as they reclined, still dazed from ten hours’ sleep. The haze crept past the water’s edge toward them. Soon, nothing was visible past the rough-hewn guard rails placed along the deck’s perimeter. Bill set his cup on the glass patio table between them, stretched his arms well above his head to get the blood moving, recovered, and sat back down. He turned toward Jen and growled,
“How long have you known?”
“Long enough to know there’s no turning back,” Jen said.
“And you’re just now getting around to telling me?”
“I’d hoped you’d be more enthusiastic. When things were beginning to feel right between us, too.”
“I’m more than excited. I wasn’t quite ready for this. Not this, Jesus; not this, Jen. Hell, we’ve only been together a year, less maybe. Not nearly enough time for you to earn my trust, much less believe you. And things are not right between us either. I doubt they ever will be now that you’ve fired this round across my bow.”
“Why are you treating me like this. I didn’t plan to get knocked up, you know.” Jen popped a Xanax and prayed it to kick in fast.
The fog slowly lifted, revealing a darkened dawn sky harboring threatening slow, low churning gray clouds third-trimester pregnant with moisture. A gull flew over and shat on the roof of their rental car parked next to the deck. The poo splattered milky white, runny, and drooled down the passenger side window—her window. Bill pointed at the mess, “Now, there’s an omen for you, Jen. Best pay heed to that gull’s message.”
Jen squinted skyward, “It was a mistake in timing, is all.”
“Rythm? You’re blaming rhythm? Are there any other mistakes you need to confess?” Bill approached the railing in his robe and slippers. He leaned over and faced the sodden lawn searching the earth for guidance, “It’s damned cold out here. It looks like rain again. Rain, four days straight. Enough of this crap! I’m going inside. Given this fickle spring weather, we came too early in the season. San Diego is better in June.”
He shuffled toward the kitchen sliding glass door, avoiding eye contact as he passed her. The clouds let loose, “Rain!” She jumped up and followed him inside; “The heavens are shedding diamond-colored tears.” She poured herself a fourth cup of coffee fortified by two shots of Baileys. “Refill?” She nodded at his empty mug.
“No thanks.” He leaned on the edge of the oak dining table, snake-eyed, and lit a Lucky, “I’m coffeed out.” He sat, hunching, his elbow on the table, his left hand on his lower jaw, propping up his head.
Jen slid into the chair opposite Bill, “So. What now?”
“You should probably go home.”
“But it’s only Wednesday, our fourth day here. We paid for seven days.”
“No, sweetness, I paid for seven days, not we; you’ve never been privy to my finances.” Fists clenched, his knuckles thumped the table with every syllable, “No, I’m staying. You’re going.” Bill waved her off, flicking the back of his hand in her direction as if he were swatting a fly.
“That month in Europe; Paris, Florence, Rome, Bern, the good times we had there mean nothing to you, Bill?” Wall-eyed, she fretfully consulted the mocha-colored depths of her cup. “Does this mean we’re through”
“The sooner you leave, the better. I’ll line up a morning flight out of here for you.” Bill fetched a half-empty fifth of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey from the liquor cabinet and poured himself a double shot neat in a tumbler,
“It’s 9:00 in the morning. No, I won’t be drinking anymore today.” She sighed.
“I hoped you’d say that.”
“I’m keeping the baby, you know.”
“Okay. So, keep it.” He downed the liquor and poured another, “You’d better start packing.”
“If your attitude means we’re done, I’ll raise the child myself if you don’t want it, but you’re the father. You’ll need to own up to your paternal and financial responsibilities,” she said. “If you fight me, I’ll get a judge to see you do.”
“Yup, sure thing,” Bill sneered, “Court won’t be necessary. I’ll be there for you. Yup, sure will.”
“Will you tell your wife?”
“You mean my ex-wife? She’ll laugh at you and tell you it isn’t mine.”
“Why?” Jen swallowed another Xanax.
“A surgeon’s knife ensured I’ll never father children. My ex knew that well before we married, years before you showed up. Seriously, give her a call.” Bill produced a pen and wrote his ex’s cell down on the backside of a tattered cardboard coaster. He slapped the number on the table in front of Jen, poured three fingers of whiskey into his glass, and drained it. He gazed at the rain beating the cedar deck and guzzled three fingers more.
An uneasy pause occurred, “Say something, Bill. This silence is awkward.”
“Trust can drown in awkward moments, Jen.”
“I don’t believe you had a vasectomy. I don’t care what your wife says, either. I want a DNA test. DNA doesn’t lie.”
“Unlike you.” Bill pulled hard from the bottle.“Look, your ruse won’t pay off. I’ll do the DNA, but it will only paint your revelation as some demented pipe dream.” The Santa Ana monsoons picked up, driving the rain almost sideways, pounding the kitchen glass door with applause.
Drunk on Baileys, high on Xanax, Jen wobbled to the hall bath, “I’m going to shower. I’ll start packing after.” She dropped her robe at the bath entry in front of Bill and left the door ajar.
“Damn, Jen, even homeless beggars and thieves are more honorable than you.” Bill swirled the whiskey around in his tumbler and picked up the phone.
Steve is a native Detroiter, now a resident of Las Vegas for the past thirty-five years. His work has appeared here and in Southwestern American Literature, Vine Leaves, Foundling Review, and others.