My father, hesitant, couldn’t help but smile. He wasn’t sure how my mother would want him to react to this. “Well,” he said, easing back and sticking his hands in his pockets, “they’ve brought down a few in their time, let me tell you.”
“I can believe it,” Macon said. I looked over his head, back toward the house, and saw my mother standing in the doorway, still watching. I couldn’t make out her expression. “This thing is equipped with sensors and stuff, so it makes it easier.”
“Sensors?” my father stepped a little closer, peering down at the mower’s control console. He was clearly torn between doing the Right Thing and his complete love of garden tools and accessories. “Really.”
“This thing here,” Macon explained, pointing, “shows how far you’ve gone. And then anything over a height the blade can handle pops up here, on the Terrain Scope, so you can work around it.”
“Terrain Scope,” my father repeated dreamily.
Then we all heard it; the front door opening and my mother’s voice, shattering the lawn reverie with a shrillness she had never been able to control. “Brian? Could you come here a moment, please?”
My father started to back away from Macon, toward the house, his eyes still on the mower. “Coming,” he called out, then turned to face her, climbing the steps. I could see her mouth moving, angrily, before he even got to the porch.
“Thanks,” I said to Macon. “You saved me.”
“No problem.” He started pushing the mower back to the curb. “I gotta get this thing back, though. I’ll see you later, right?”
“Yeah,” I said, watching him climb back into the truck. He took his hat off and tossed it onto the seat. “I’ll see you later.”
He drove off, beeping the horn twice as he rounded the corner. I walked as slowly as I could up the driveway and front walk to the porch, where my mother was waiting.
“Halley,” she said before I even hit the first step, “I thought we had an understanding that it was your job to mow the lawn.”
“I know,” I said, and my father was studying some spot over my head, avoiding making eye contact, “he just wanted to help me out.”
“Who is he?”
“He’s just this guy,” I said.
“How do you know him?”
“We have P.E. together,” I said, opening the door and slipping inside, making my getaway. “It’s no big deal.”
“He seems nice enough,” my father offered, his eyes on the lawn.
“I don’t know,” she said slowly. I started up the stairs, pretending not to hear her, turning away to keep my secrets to myself. “I just don’t know.”
SOMEONE LIKE YOU
“I need you,” Scarlett said to me as I was busy weighing produce for a woman with two screaming babies in her cart. “Meet me in the ladies’ room.”
“What?” I said, distracted by the noise and confusion, oranges and plums rolling down my conveyer belt.
“Hurry,” she hissed, disappearing down the cereal aisle and leaving me no chance to argue. My line was long, snaking around the Halloween display and back into Feminine Products. It took me a good fifteen minutes to get to the bathroom, where she was standing in front of the sinks, arms crossed over her chest.
“What’s wrong?” I said.
She just shook her head.
“What?” I said. “What is it?”
She reached behind the paper towel dispenser and pulled out a small white stick-shaped object with a little circle on the end of it. As she held it out, I saw that in the little circle was a bright pink cross. Then, all at once, it hit me.
“No,” I said. “No way.”
She nodded, biting her lip. “I’m pregnant.”
“You can’t be.”
“I am.” She shook the stick in front of me, the plus sign blurring. “Look.”
“Those things are always wrong,” I said, like I knew.
“It’s the third one I’ve taken.”
“So?” I said.
“So what? So nothing is wrong three times, Halley. And I’ve been sick every morning for the last three weeks, I can’t stop peeing, it’s all there. I’m pregnant.”
“No,” I said. I could see my mother in my head, lips forming the word: denial. “No way.”
“What am I going to do?” she said, pacing nervously. “I only had sex one time.”
“You had sex?” I said.
She stopped. “Of course I had sex. God, Halley, try to stay with me here.”
“You never told me,” I said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
She sighed, loudly. “Gosh, Halley, I don’t know. Maybe it was because he died the next day. Go figure.”
“Oh, my God,” I said. “Didn’t you use protection?”
“Of course we did. But something happened, I don’t know. It came off. I didn’t realize it until it was over. And then,” she said, her voice rising, “I thought there was no way it could happen the first time. It couldn’t.”
“It came off?” I didn’t understand, exactly; I wasn’t very clear on the logistics of sex. “Oh, my God.”
“This is nuts.” She pressed her fingers to her temples, hard, something I’d never seen her do before. “I can’t have a baby, Halley.”
“Of course you can’t,” I said.
“So, what, I have to get an abortion?” She shook her head. “I can’t do that. Maybe I should keep it.”
“Oh, my God,” I said again.
“Please.” She sat down against the wall, pulling her legs up against her chest. “Please stop saying that.”
I went over and sat beside her, putting my arm around her shoulders. We sat there together on the cold floor of Milton’s, hearing the muffled Muzak playing “Fernando” overhead.
“It’ll be okay,” I said in my most confident voice. “We can handle this.”
“Oh, Halley,” she said softly, leaning against me, the pregnancy stick lying in front of us, plus sign up. “I miss him. I miss him so much.”
“I know,” I said, and I knew now it was my job to hold us together, my turn to see us through. “It’ll be okay, Scarlett. Everything is going to be fine.”
But even as I said it, I was scared.