I had pictures of her. WeÕd walked through the woods one afternoon, and had taken a whole roll of film of just each other and the trees and everything else. They were in black and white.

IÕd promised to give her some, but I only got them developed after weÕd moved back to the city. ThereÕs one of her sitting on the ground in her skirt and bare legs. Hair short, messy and wavy. Staring perfectly into the camera. She looks sad in that picture. In her eyes. And sheÕs biting her lip. As if she knew sheÕd get pregnant and IÕd just leave and never call.

I was scared. Scared of having a girlfriend who wore big maternity dresses and couldnÕt move too fast. Scared of losing my China exactly as she was. Because I knew sheÕd change. IÕd seen pictures of my own mother before she had me. She was almost beautiful then. And so skinny and she wore lipstick too and smiled and even danced. But now she just watched daytime TV and chatted about napkin holders and detergent brands and how to lose weight.

I didnÕt want China to turn into a stay at home ghost mom.

When we first moved back to the city I was relieved. Happy to be back in culture, and not some ridiculous tiny town. I lost myself in the world of high school bands, imported singles, and even more drugs than before.

But four years later I was sick of it all. I stopped drinking, I lost my crowd. I went to school in Europe. Studied photography and psychology. In London one day in early winter I sat in my tiny apartment. Littered with records and music magazines and cigarette butts. I missed China. Ridiculously missed her. I wondered about the baby. I wasnÕt sure if I hoped I was a father. A guy shouldnÕt be a father at twenty, let alone sixteen, I thought.

But whatÕs much worse than being a too-young father is being a non-existent one.

Of course sheÕd be furious. But China was my soul mate. I wondered whether this teen mom who I still loved more than anything would even look at me.

But it had to be worth a try.