I couldn’t go back to the office. I told the girls I was still feeling a little off and left a couple hours early. It was not a lie. I was feeling a little off. I was feeling a lot off, truth be told. So many emotions were swirling around. I was happy. This was good. If everything went well, I would walk away from this with six figures in my bank account and perhaps a shot as CEO. But mixed in with the happiness was a little bit of fear. It was more of an emulsion than a mixture. The happiness was on the bottom, but there was a thin layer of fear skimming the surface. What did the next nine months have in store for me? How would I explain this to my family? To my coworkers? What was it going to be like as the months advanced and my stomach grew? Would I grow to care for the baby? Would I be sad to give it up? Or would I just be relieved to put the whole ordeal behind me?
I tried to walk off my angst, but the more I walked the more anxious I became. What if I let them down? What if I lost the baby? Horrace looked so happy. That look in his eyes will haunt me forever if this doesn’t work out.
It didn’t help that I couldn’t talk about this with anyone. That would have to change. The moment of truth was upon me. I had to begin telling my friends and families.
I met my mom and sister that evening for dinner. It seemed easier to tell them both at once. I had thought that I would be able to ease into the subject, but straightaway it seemed I had some explaining to do.
“Where have you been hiding?” Mom asked as soon as I sat down. “I was getting so worried about you. I didn’t know if you were having some sort of a breakdown or what. I was just about going mad. I was going to break down you door and find out what was going on.”
“Sorry. I’ve been under the weather,” I replied glibly. I didn’t want to spill it all right off the bat, and then have to sit through a meal of awkward, strained conversation.
“Under the weather?” Mom asked, raising her eyebrows. It was evident she didn’t believe me.
“Come on, spill it,” Erin probed. “It’s a new man, isn’t it?” she asked, her green eyes sparkling mischievously.
“I wish,” I muttered, perusing the menu.
“Shall we order a bottle of wine?” Mom asked.
“Uh, none for me, thanks, but you two go ahead,” I replied, after a moments hesitation.
Mom raised her eyes at me again. “Kris, are you still under the weather?”
“No, I just have an early morning tomorrow.”
“But surely a glass of wine can’t hurt,” mom persisted.
“Well…” I began. Perhaps I should just take the wine and pretend to drink it.
“You don’t look well. You look flushed,” Erin said.
“I told you I’m fine,” I countered in a defensive tone.
Mom and Erin exchanged glances but let the matter drop. The waitress came around to take our drink orders. I ordered a decaf tea. This caused more raised eyebrows.
“All right,” I begin. “I was going to try to ease into this, but it seems there’s no way that’s going to happen. I have some news.” I say. They continue to look at me, but I cannot go on. How to break it to them?
“I knew there was a new man!” Erin says.
“No, it’s not a man. It’s an arrangement. Nothing more and nothing less,” I begin tentatively.
“What you mean like you’re shacking up with someone so he can get his Green Card?” Erin asks. Obviously she watches too much TV. Way too much.
“No. Green Cards are in the States, anyways. It’s like this. My boss, Cynthia,”
“The dragon lady,” Erin interjects.
“Yes, the dragon lady. She’s been having a lot of problems, personal problems. So I’ve decided to help her out.”
“Oh, that’s sweet, dear,” mom says.
“Well, yeah, okay,” I say, not comfortable with being glorified, after all I’m not really interested in ‘helping her out’. Money is my main motivation. The tea comes and I take a long swallow, even though it’s still very hot and burns a bit as it goes down.
“Well, what are you doing? Helping her with budgeting?” she asked. “You were always so good with money. My little accountant,” she said, a proud smile coming over her.
I nod slowly. “Yeah, I’m helping her with her budgeting. She’s got terrible spending habits. Gucci suits, Louis Vuiton… whatever he sells. You name it, she’s got it” I say, because I simply didn't know how to break it to her.
I’ll tell her next time, I promise myself.
“Good for you. Some people, the way they spend. Hundreds of dollars for a simple pair of shoes. I’ll never understand it. Pure foolishness” mom said.
“Yah, I know,” I nod along.
We order our food and things start to feel normal again. Almost.
“Hey, what was your big news?” Mom asked, suddenly remembering.
“Oh, oh… nothing really. My apartment might be going rent control, so… that should be good.”
They look at me quizzically.
“You really need to get out more,” Erin jokes.
But somehow I doubted that would be happening.