"I'm sorry, I'm what?"
"Grounded," her mother said.
"Mom, you can't ground me. I'm eighteen."
"It doesn't matter; you're still living under our roof. We're paying for your school in the fall, some of which you may end up missing now."
"I shouldn't miss any. The doctor said my due date is right after Christmas."
"You can't go to classes nine months pregnant."
"Why not? I'm pregnant not incapable. Women go to work nine months pregnant, certainly I can sit in class and listen to a professor's lecture."
"Claire, you're missing the point."
"What point? I made a mistake and you're going to punish me for it during the summer?"
"A mistake? Running over a sprinkler is a mistake. Failing a test is a mistake. Getting pregnant is not a mistake."
"Until you tell us who's responsible for your situation you're grounded. That's final. He should've been here with you to tell us. Any boy worth anything wouldn't have let you tell us without him."
Claire scowled at her mother. Grounding her! School was out! What was she going to tell her friends? Her dad sat silently in his chair, reading the newspaper. Claire knew he wasn't really reading the paper, but was instead staying out of the conversation. She'd plead her case to him later, the more understanding of her parents.
"If it's Adam, honey. I'm sure his parents will make him see reason. We can go talk to them."
"It's not Adam!"
Of course they wanted to go talk to his parents about the situation. She guessed that would be something her parents would want to do, which was why she was refusing to tell them who the father was. John might be a horse's ass of the worst kind, but she was not going to be responsible for him getting physically hurt by his father. She didn't imagine he'd react too well to such news.
She had no idea if John had moved out of his house or not, so she wasn't willing to take the risk. One day maybe she'd tell her parents, but only when she knew he was safe. She'd only seen them the once, but she'd never forget the scars. Some she barely felt as she touched him. Some were so deep and wide she'd wondered how he'd gotten away without getting the wounds looked at.
"Fine," she said. "I'm going to my room then."
"I'm not done talking to you."
"There's nothing more to say. I'm not telling you. He's not in the picture, so it doesn't really matter who he is. If you want me to drop out of Northwestern for the fall I will, but then you'd be stuck taking care of me and the baby a lot longer than a few years."
"You could give it up."
"No, I'm not going to give it up, Mom. I can do this. I know I need your help right now, but I know I can. I called Northwestern and they said for something like this you could get your room and board deposit back."
"You called them?"
"Yes, because I had to know before I told you."
"I'm going to my room. When you decide to unground me, let me know. Otherwise, I'll just be there."
She had everything she needed up there with the exception of food and since it was summer and the weekend she didn't have to go to work with her dad tomorrow. She could just wait until her parents were asleep before coming down to reheat leftovers from dinner for herself.
She got up to her room and had no idea what to do. She was supposed to go out tonight, but obviously that wasn't going to happen. God, how humiliating! As if the situation wasn't bad enough her mother had to go and ground her. If she didn't need her mom's help in the winter she'd look at finding her own place. There was no way she could go to school and afford daycare, though. Somehow she doubted her parents would pay for that, not that she could blame them.
Despite her initial misgivings when John mentioned it, Claire knew her mom would indeed babysit when she was in school. Her mother would never let her forget it. Ever. For the rest of her life it would hang over her head that for the first four years of his or her life Grandma played a large role in his upbringing.
She thought she'd lucked out immensely when her doctor had given her the Christmastime due date. She'd be able to finish her first semester and hopefully have the baby while on Christmas break. She knew it could come early or late, but hopefully it would be close to on time so she wouldn't get behind. Hopefully if it chose during semesters it would be early instead of late. Early would mean toward the end of the semester and surely her professors would let her make up a day or two of work because she gave birth. Late would mean early in the semester and the possibility of professors who wouldn't know she'd attended class every day to let her make up any work.
She went into the bathroom and ran herself a bath, careful not to have the water as hot as she usually had it. She'd read in her book that it wasn't good for the baby, she could sweat but he or she could not. Her back was bothering her a little bit because she spent the afternoon cleaning out her car. She didn't like to make a mess in it, but the last week of school had been hectic.
She put a washcloth over her eyes once she stepped into the tub. Her doctor had assured her bubble bath was okay, so she had some in there, too. She had no idea what she was going to do. Her mom couldn't keep her grounded indefinitely. She and her mother would kill one another if they were in the house together that much.
It was a good thing she at least worked with her dad on weekdays so she and her mom wouldn't drive one another completely nuts. She liked going to work with her dad. He didn't have her doing anything beyond general office work, but she liked to see how the business ran. Her brother had no interest in taking over one day, but Claire did. Her dad's marketing firm wasn't the largest around, but it had been around forever beginning with her grandfather and had some very important clients.
"God. Grounded," she murmured as she ran her hand along her abdomen. She wasn't showing yet that she could tell. Maybe her stomach was a little rounder than it had been, but she wasn't sure if it really was or just her imagination.
She could call him; ask him to come meet her parents so that she could at least get out of being grounded. She had no idea how to get ahold of him, though. She guessed his number might be in the phone book, but she didn't want to break down first.
She'd told him. She'd been nice about it. She could have accused him of doing it intentionally, though the fault was partially hers, too. What were the odds she'd get pregnant her first and only time having sex? Evidently pretty good.
She hadn't told him in the middle of school or anything. She thought she'd handled it well. She'd been factual about it without blaming him or getting angry. She had been very angry at first, too. Her whole life plan changed because she'd decided to visit him that day. She'd known all along she was going to have it.
Well, not all along. The first couple of days after taking the home test she'd gone over her options. She'd leaned toward an abortion at first. He'd never know, her parents would never know. She'd even looked in the phone book to find out where to go. There was a place not too far from them.
It took about three days for her to push that idea out of her head. She told herself she'd talk to him about it and let him have a say in the decision. As six weeks became eight weeks, though, she knew she wasn't going to abort it.
He'd been okay about it, too, hadn't said anything that she hadn't expected. She knew he didn't want to be a dad. Then he'd made that comment about having sex with Adam. Did he really think she'd do that? Not just the randomly have sex with someone part, but to lie to him.
Prom had been one of the longest nights of her life. So many pictures to pose for. Adam's parents. Her parents. School people for next year's yearbook. Friends. Adam sensed somehow that nothing was going to happen between them, which was good. They'd had a good time, though. They danced and after the dance went to a friend's house for pizza and movies. They'd gone to the Wisconsin Dells with a group of their friends for post-prom the next day. She'd had much more fun there then she had at the actual dance. For a few hours she was able to let loose and forget about her situation. They went on a Duck ride, played miniature golf, did some shopping, and just hung out.
Then there'd been the last day of school, which was for seniors just a formality. Yearbook signings and exchanging of college information occurred in most of the classes. Then graduation. She'd purposely avoided looking even remotely in his direction when she left the stage.
And now she was stuck in her house all summer. She had no idea how she was going to explain it to her friends. Other than the day of detention that led to her being pregnant she'd never been in trouble a day in her life. She was a pretty good girl. She drank the occasional beer, smoked a joint once in a while, and skipped a class or two. Who didn't?
She sighed softly, getting out of the tub and letting the water drain. She should call her brother. He might not be home, but she had to tell him before their mom spilled the beans. She supposed she could ask him to stay with him if her mom didn't ease up on the grounding soon. She didn't want to do that, though, because his place wasn't as nice as theirs.
She toweled off, picking some clean pajamas out of her dresser drawer. She put some lotion on before sliding them on. Her mom must have just washed them because they smelled like they just came out of the dryer. She loved the scent of the fabric softener or whatever it was Mom did to make her clothes smell nice. The sachet of potpourri in her dresser didn't hurt either, but it'd been in there so long now that the scent was pretty minimal.
"Okay, Christopher, time to tell you you're going to be an uncle," she said as she slid under the covers. One thing about being grounded, it gave her an excuse to go to bed early and as much as Claire wanted to deny it she was so tired all of the time these days. So, sleeping instead of going to a party was probably not a bad idea.
"Yeah," she said sleepily. She glanced at her clock. It wasn't even nine o'clock. She'd dozed off after talking with Christopher.
"Can I come in?" her mother asked through the door.
"It's your house," she said.
Her mom opened the door and came inside. She had a tray with her, Claire noticed. She set it on the table in the corner of Claire's room. She closed the door then.
"I thought you might be hungry."
"I am a little."
"Are you feeling all right?"
"Well, it occurred to me as your father and I were eating dinner that I didn't ask that."
"Oh," Claire said. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just tired."
"So I've read."
"Have you been getting sick?"
"Not really. A few mornings, but not every day or anything."
She shrugged. "I guess."
"Claire, I really wish you'd reconsider telling us. He should be made to be responsible."
"I'm not going to force someone to be involved, Mom. He knows and everything. I'm hoping maybe he'll decide to be responsible on his own."
"You have told him?"
"Yes! Of course. He was the first person I told."
"Do I know him?"
"No," she said quickly.
"He didn't," her mom paused, clearly searching for something to say. "It wasn't force, was it?"
"No," she said, surprised at the question. "Not at all, Mom. I just made a mistake. Honestly. He just, he comes from kind of a bad home and I don't want to get him in trouble."
"Get him in trouble? Claire, you're going to have a baby."
"I know, but you aren't going to beat me for telling you I'm pregnant."
Her mom's lips thinned at that statement. Her mom was one of those people that didn't like to hear about the bad things in life.
"I see. Does he know for certain you're having it?"
"For certain? No, I guess not, but I think he would have had to realize if I told him I was pregnant that meant I was having it."
"I suppose you're right."
"Mom, I'm sorry. Really, I am. If I could go back and undo it."
"Yes, I'm sure you could. I'm sorry, too. Perhaps grounding you is too harsh."
"Well, I think it is. I mean, grounding me isn't going to change the fact that I'm already pregnant."
"Don't get mouthy with me. I'm still your mother."
"I'm not being mouthy. I just didn't see the point in grounding me."
"I do think you should limit yourself, though, Claire. You were sound asleep when I knocked on your door the first time. That means you're tired. You don't have to do something every night of the week."
"And you must not drink."
"I don't really, so that's not an issue."
"You are going to stay in school, right?"
"Yes, Mom, I am. As long as you're willing to help me by babysitting, yes."
"It's been so long since there's been a baby in the house."
"Since me, I guess."
"Yes, since you. You were a beautiful baby, too. Had your father wrapped around your little finger the first time you opened your eyes."
Claire smiled at that. She was a daddy's girl for certain.
Her mother kissed the top of her head. "Eat and get some rest. If you want to go out tomorrow you can."
"Thanks, Mom," she said, sitting up in bed before going to the table.
She'd come around much faster than Claire thought she would. She figured this weekend she'd be stuck inside with her parents the entire time. That could have been bad.
Now if only John would come to his senses she'd feel better about all of this. She didn't understand what his problem was exactly. She didn't expect him to marry her or anything. She didn't even expect him to date her. She just wanted some acknowledgement he wanted to be around. Maybe he didn't. She was kind of surprised this was the first time he'd gotten someone pregnant, but then she knew people who had sex all of the time and didn't get pregnant. She was just one of the lucky ones that couldn't even once without repercussions. She wondered if he'd gotten to move out of his parents' house yet. She knew that had to be important to him, but it'd only been a couple of weeks since school let out. She wasn't sure what job he'd gotten, if he even had one.
She finished eating, brought the tray downstairs and put the dishes in the sink. She checked the front door and stuff to be sure it was locked up before heading back to her room. She slid back into bed. She found the remote on her nightstand and turned the TV on.
"God, I can't believe I'm going to watch Johnny Carson on a Friday night during summer," she murmured, flipping through the channels to get to Channel 5. She hoped he had someone good on because there was nothing else on so late.