Author's Note: For those of you who have read my stories before, this one is very different and may not be the one for you. But honestly, this story is more like "me" and typical of what I usually write—my other stories are the oddballs. It is mostly based on a true story about some people I know. Anything in this story that seems unrealistic is probably true. Life is a funny thing...

Hiding Blood

Summer, 1983:

"Are you pregnant?"

Patty jerked her head toward the voice that had just asked the question. Her best friend Georgia just looked at her with an embarrassed smile, all thanks to her mother's latest annoying question. "No!" Patty insisted immediately.

Gayle, Georgia's mother, gave her a smile that matched her daughter's. "I'm not trying to be nosy," she promised, which was a complete lie. "You just kind of look like you're pregnant. And you're kind of acting like it, too."

"Momma!" Georgia scolded.

With a forced laugh, Patty shrugged and tried to brush off the unintentional insult. "I look like I'm pregnant? Thanks!"

"I didn't mean it like that," Gayle said, wagging her finger at Patty. "I just mean that you have that glow; you know how pregnant women get. You looked like that when you were pregnant with Will."

Patty just shrugged again. Will was two-years-old by this time, and at the moment he was busy playing with Georgia's cat. The poor cat had taken refuge under the couch as Will tried to coax it out with a piece of string and a yank on the tail—neither of which seemed to work.

"Well, before you ask me," Georgia put in, "no, I'm not pregnant either. I just look this beautiful all the time." She twisted her body and struck a pose.

"Why, I know that, darling," her mother mocked with a thick southern accent, "you get it from me." As she struck her own supermodel-like pose, the three women burst into playful laughter at Gayle's ultimate joke. Gayle was passing her mid-forties and could not longer deny the fact that she wasn't twenty-something anymore (though she had claimed thirty-nine for her past few birthdays). Both of her children were grown—Georgia was the youngest at age twenty-one—and those annoying little wrinkles were starting to penetrate her once flawless skin. And she'd long ago given up shopping in the Misses section at Zaire's—she was a size 24 now, and she didn't care who knew it. Besides, as she often pointed out, being a "plus sized" woman came with one major advantage—a huge set of knockers!

The subject of pregnancy was quickly forgotten—for the mother and daughter, that is. However, as it had been for the past eight months, Patty couldn't get the idea out of her head. She didn't suspect that she was pregnant; she knew. And she had just outright lied to the one true mother-figure she had in the world. I'll tell them eventually, she swore to herself. She just didn't know when. It had to be soon though. Who knew when this baby would decide to pop out?

Another good thing about being a heavyset woman was the ability to hide a bundle. Gayle wouldn't know about this, but Patty sure would. The world had been shocked when Patty, at her unwed age of nineteen, had gotten pregnant with Will and gained sixty pounds. She hated the thought of what people would say if they knew she had gotten pregnant two years later after gaining all that weight. They already said terrible things about her behind her back due to the fact that she was a single mother completely abandoned by her boyfriend who'd gotten her pregnant—everyone except Georgia and her mother, which was exactly why Patty considered the two of them her family in place of her own true family.

"I should probably be going now," Patty announced after a few entertaining moments of silently listening to Georgia and Gayle playful bicker with each other.

"You're mad at me now, aren't you?" Gayle accused as Patty stood from her chair and pulled Will away from the cat.

"No, I want that," Will whined.

"Leave her alone," Patty warned. "She's going to scratch you."

Will just grinned innocently up at his mother, his big brown eyes—exact replicas of her own—sparkling and his gap-toothed baby teeth on display. She ruffled his thick, blond hair—also an exact replica of her own—and tugged on his hand for him to follow her. It was the perfect maneuver to assist in covering her belly; Will was tiny, even for a two-year-old, and she had to lean slightly forward to reach his hand. Her t-shirt hung down in wonderful camouflage.

"Patty?" Gayle repeated. "Are you mad?"

"No, I'm not mad," Patty answered lightly. "We just need to get home soon. I need to get him fed and put down for a nap."

"We have food here," Georgia pointed out. "And Will can nap on my bed." Georgia tossed back her feathered long brown hair, highlighted with very natural-looking blond.

Patty shook her head. "No, thanks. Mom's probably wondering where I am."

"You can call her." Georgia pointed to the phone on the wall next to the door to the kitchen.

"Georgia," Gayle hissed. "If she needs to go, let her go. Stop trying to hold her hostage."

Georgia rolled her eyes. Her mother could be so dramatic sometimes. No one was trying to hold anyone hostage; she was simply trying to give Patty an excuse not to go home. Everyone knew that Patty hated her home; she wasn't welcome there. After Will was born, her mother had been looking for excuses to kick her out. Fortunately, her dad was a nice enough man that he wouldn't put her on the street, but he kept her on a short leash at all times. It seemed like she wasn't allowed to go anywhere except home and work. Of course, Patty did go other placed, but Georgia doubted that they would approve, which was just ridiculous, as Patty was a twenty-one year old woman with a child.

"I'll see you later," Parry told the two of them with a wave.

"Don't forget!" Georgia called after her. "Bobby and I are coming to your game next week!"

"Good, then you can give me a ride!" Patty teased. She let the door close behind her without another word. She pulled on Will's hand and led him in the direction of their home.

"I want SpaghettiOs!" Will announced.

Patty smiled at how adorable he was. "We have SpaghettiOs at home," she promised. They walked together past two houses until they reached the end of the street, then made a turn. The sidewalk ended there, so they walked along the edge of the grassy ditch that lined the road.

"Mama, can I have a coke?" Will asked her.

Patty frowned. "No, you can have juice or milk."

"Georgia lets me have a coke," Will tattled.

"Georgia ain't your Momma," Patty countered. After two more steps, Will complained that he didn't want to walk anymore and begged to be carried. Patty knew she had to refused. Even though Will was small for his age, he was too heavy for her to be carrying around for the two-block walk to their house. She already did enough stuff that she knew was bad for the developing baby inside her, but she had to keep up false appearances as much as she possibly could.

Home was no better than she expected. Fortunately, her mother wasn't in a talkative move that day, which meant she didn't have to listen to her nagging and pestering about how much of a worthless loser she was. Her dad wasn't home,which was also fortunate because then she didn't have to listen to him go on about how much she owed him for letting her live with them even after she had embarrassed their family with her bastard child.

When Will was fed and put down for his nap, Patty sat on the couch with her fourteen-year-old brother Bryan and watched television. As usual, Bryan didn't acknowledge her existence—not because he didn't want to, but because he was encouraged by his mother not to. As a child with a mental disability, he had been dependent on his mother for his entire life; even at age fourteen, his mother hadn't let go. She still made all of his decisions for him... much she same way she attempted to make all of Patty's decisions for her.

Patty observed her younger brother with sympathy. His jet-black hair was shaggy and hung in his dark brown eyes. Bryan was thin and tall, much unlike Patty. Aside from their matching brown eyes, they were complete opposites. On top of that, Bryan was so young and so innocent. Unfortunately, he was stuck in this hell-hole with their mother who did nothing to make the place more bearable for anyone. Mother refused to work, saying that she was needed at home to take care of Bryan and Will; their only course of consistent income was from Patty's father, who merely had a high school education and barely made ends meat by working in a grocery store. Patty worked as well to help out the family, but her job in the bakery was inconsistent and paid only minimum wage.

Rubbing her pregnant belly inconspicuously, Patty retreated to her bedroom when she heard her mother fussing to herself in the nearby kitchen. She lay on her full-sized bed that she shared with Will and pretended to sleep as the two-year-old did so peacefully next to her.

Little Millie, she cooed in her head, for she dare not speak the words out loud. She had named the baby already, knowing somewhere inside of her that it would be a little girl. You deserve better than this. I'll find a way to make this better for you.

The following Saturday night, Patty found herself in the same place she always was on a Saturday night during the summer—the softball field. She had played all through the season, which was quickly coming to an end. She knew that she probably shouldn't have been playing softball while pregnant, but she just couldn't bring herself to quit. It was like a drug for her—an addictive place where she could get away from her mother and just be. Besides, she was the pitcher, and essentially the only pitcher her team had. They would have sucked without her. And she didn't have to do any running—if she got a hit while at bat, it was always a home run. She was that good, and everyone knew it, which was why the other team usually chose to toss in four balls and send her walking to first. Her coach always allowed her a pinch runner once she made it on base, so that she could have more time on the bench keeping her arm warm for the next inning.

Georgia and their friend Bobby sat behind the fence and cheered her on like maniacs. Bobby had created his own cheer—for some reason sung to the tune of that Meatloaf song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." But it was often suspected that Bobby had been smoking something a little stronger than Marlboros, as he was often singing some random song at an embarrassingly loud volume.

Patty's team won by a landslide, fourteen to two. Georgia and Bobby offered to take her out for a milkshake afterward to celebrate, but Patty declined, saying that she needed to go get home to Will. Her mother already complained about the fact that she had to watch Will while Patty was at the softball games, and she didn't think that she could stand listening to the woman bicker about Patty having a few minutes of fun with her friends.

Patty awoke just a few minutes after three the next morning, a sharp pain piercing her belly. Her hand flew to her abdomen. "Oh, no," she moaned. She knew exactly what was happened—she'd been through this before, when Will was born. But with him, she had gone to a doctor regularly and had been prepared when the time came for his birth. But this was Millie, not Will—this was very different. She took in a few deep breaths, contemplating what she should do next.

She didn't trust herself to drive to the hospital on her own. If she had a bad contraction on the way, both she and the baby, along with other passengers on the road, would be in danger. Her mother was the last person she could turn to. Patty pulled herself from her bed, carefully not to wake Will, and dressed quickly.

I can to do this. I can do this, she chanted to herself as she tiptoed through the house and grabbed her house keys. She locked the door carefully behind her, and began the familiar walk: down the street two blocks, around the corner to where the sidewalk began, and down two more houses. Georgia's bedroom faced the front of the house, but it was dark inside. But Georgia's car was in the driveway—she had to be home and asleep.

Patty protectively held her stomach and eased between two low bushes that lined the house. She knocked softly on the glass once, then again when there wasn't an immediate response. After a few more knocks, she began to worry that this wasn't going to work.

But then Georgia pulled down a slat on the mini-blinds. She saw Patty standing outside her window and became extremely confused at the unusual sight. "Patty? What are you doing here?" she asked, as she pulled the string to lift the blinds. "Why didn't you just go to the front door?"

The look in Patty's eyes was almost emotionless. "Do you remember what your mom asked me the other day?" she croaked. Her hand rested on her stomach.

Georgia's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh my god! Patty! You're pregnant?"

Patty sighed. "Can you drive me to the hospital? I think I'm about to have a baby."

Georgia rushed her to the closest hospital downtown. She sat in the father's waiting room while Patty went back with a nurse. She couldn't sit still—this was entirely too unexpected. If she hadn't known about this, there was no way that anyone else in the world knew about it either. And Georgia couldn't keep anything to herself. After over an hour of waiting with no news, she went to the pay phone and inserted a dime, pushing Bobby's phone number. He had still been awake, even at that god-awful hour in the morning, sitting up in his one-bedroom apartment watching late-night television and infomercials, and he joined her in the father's waiting room as quickly as he could.

While Georgia waited for Bobby, she knew there was someone else she had to call. She inserted another dime and called her own phone number.

Gayle awoke at the sound of the telephone ringing, and reached for it haphazardly. "Hello?" she answered.

"Momma?" Georgia was already apologetic. "Sorry I had to wake you, but there's something you need to know."

"Georgia? Where are you?" Gayle was confused. Georgia had gone to bed at the same time that she had. Where could she have been now, in the middle of the night?

"I'm at the hospital," Georgia replied.

"What?" Gayle shrieked, sitting up suddenly and waking her husband. "Why are you in the hospital? Are you hurt?"

"No, Momma." Georgia remained calm, despite her mother's slight panic on the phone. "I'm in the father's waiting room."

"The father's waiting room?" Gayle shrieked again. "What the hell are you doing there?"

Georgia chuckled. "Well, remember what you asked Patty the other day? You were right!"

Gayle dropped the phone and swore loudly as she pulled on the cord to bring the phone back up to her ear. "Does Jackie know?" she asked somberly, referring to Patty's mother.


Silence rang through the phone for a few moments. "I'll be there in a little bit," Gayle finally said before hanging up and climbing out of the bed.

"What's going on?" Gayle's husband John asked.

"Patty is at the hospital, having a baby." she told him casually, as if it were no big thing to be woken at five on a Sunday morning with the news that your daughter's best friend was in labor after no one knew she was even pregnant to begin with.

He shot out of the bed as well. "What?" His screech matched her earlier one.

"Just go back to sleep," Gayle ordered. "I've got to go make sure these kids know what they're doing."

When she arrived at the hospital, Bobby was pacing around the waiting room singing the line, "Having my baby," over and over again in a strangely deep voice.

Gayle jumped to conclusions. "Are you the daddy?"

Bobby froze. "No way!" His eyes widened, as if the thought alone scared him silly. "But this song is awesome!" Then he resumed repeating his one line of the song that no one else seemed to know.

Georgia and Gayle sat together in the waiting room, leaving Bobby to make a fool of himself while pacing around, and discussed what this baby would mean for Patty. How could they not have seen this? Well, technically, Gayle had seen it, but she had dismissed it with a simple lie and had not thought about it again.

They got to know the staff of the hospital's early morning shift in the cafeteria as they made frequent visits for coffee and snacks. It wasn't until nine in the morning that they heard something. Patty would be delivering soon; was anyone going to be in the delivery room with her?

"I'll go," Georgia volunteered.

Gayle stepped in front of her. "Girl, you don't know nothing 'bout birthin' no babies," she semi-quoted the well-known line. "I'll go. She needs a mom right now." The doctor led her in. Georgia was glad; she didn't do well with blood.

At 9:36 on that Sunday morning, the twenty-eighth day of August in the year 1983, a baby girl was born to Patty Carson while her best friend's mother held her hand and hummed out soothing words. "Her name is Millie," Patty announced when Georgia and Bobby were allowed to come in and see her.

"Millie," Georgia repeated. "I like it. It goes with Will. Willy and Millie."

Honestly, Patty hadn't even thought about that. She just liked the name. "And I'm naming her after you, Georgia," she informed her. "Millie Ann," she added Georgia's middle name to her baby's first name.

Gayle couldn't take her eyes off the baby. Her face was round and chubby with just a tiny bit of black fuzz on top. When she opened her big brown eyes—they already looked identical to those of Patty and Will—she seemed so aware of the world around her. "She's perfect," Gayle whispered.

Patty refused to disclose the identity of the man who fathered the baby, and no one pushed her for that information. The father wasn't their main concern—the grandmother posed the biggest threat.

"What am I going to do?" Patty whispered, a single tear threatening to fall from her eye.

Gayle patted her hand as Georgia cooed and made faces at the baby. "Don't worry. We'll help you. We'll do whatever we can to make sure nothing bad happens to this baby."

Millie. She has been in the world for such a short period of time, her existence in life hardly known before that, but already she had won over the hearts of several people who were sure to keep their promise and fight for her.