"Waiting"

"Do you love me?" We are standing there in the chill of the October air when I ask him this. My arms are folded across my chest, trying to stay warm in my tee-shirt, while I wait for him to pull me in tight to his chest. He pauses, and I can feel the shift between us.

"Bri," he says with a sigh, but he does not answer my question.

"Do you love me? I need to know." He takes a step closer to me, and I bend my body towards his. "Please," I whisper, barely short of pleading, "It's the only thing that matters."

He reaches up and lays his palm against my cheek, yet he still has not answered. I know what is coming, and I brace myself for the impact. He looks at me, into me, and answers, "I don't know, Bri. I don't know. I'm sorry."

"Is it because of her?" I ask.

"I don't know."

"Well, what do you know?"

"God, I don't know." He sits down on the bench that has sat on my front porch for as long as I can remember. His head goes into his hands. I take a deep breath and sit down next to him, but far enough away so that we do not touch. I am still waiting for him to hold me in his arms and tell me this is just a dream: that he chose me.

I know I should go inside or walk away, yet I feel as if I will dissolve into the night sky at any moment. I want answers. "Do you know how badly it hurts me to know that I'll never be the one you choose over everything? How you can love her like you say you love her if you're with me now? We can't do this anymore. I can't do this anymore. Not to me, to her. Neither of us deserves this." I wait for him to come up with an excuse. I wait. I have always been the one who waits: for the forbidden phone calls, for the late night dates, for the stolen kisses.

"Please," he says, "don't do this." I have to look away. He cups my cheek again and turns my face towards his. "Please."

A tear, that I have been working so hard to keep locked inside, flows down my cheek. He wipes it away and pulls my face even closer. God, I feel the butterflies in my stomach more than ever, even though I know that I should not. That is, when he kisses me like he never has before. I can taste the sadness on his lips, and I am helpless to do anything but kiss him back because I feel the same.

"You know that you're intoxicating to me," he says with a sigh.

"We can't do this anymore," I say.

He stands up to leave and looks at me one more time. Then he is gone, and I am in my bed, crying more than I ever imagined possible. -

Sometimes I have nightmares where I am trying to put back together the pieces of a shattered mirror. Even as my fingers drip blood and tears run down my face, I cannot stop. He was standing there only moments before, but he leaves me kneeling on the floor, cleaning up the mess he has made.

I am thinking of this while I sit in my darkened living room staring through a window, unable to take my eyes away from the snow drifting from the sky. Times like these, when I allow my mind to wander, are the most dangerous. Times like these are when the memories come flooding back like unwelcome guests and fill my thoughts of him. It never fails that each of the memories is replayed in my mind with startling detail and enough force to make me feel as if I have been punched in the stomach. At times like these I ask myself, "How could you have been so stupid?" but of course I cannot fabricate an answer because it is too late to change anything.

There is a feeling of dread that has been building in the pit of my stomach all day because of what I am about to do. "Be strong, take a deep breath," I tell myself as I pick up my phone and begin dialing the digits that I will always know by heart. My hands are shaking. My voice is shaking.

"Hello?" he answers groggily.

I whisper into the phone that I am clutching with pale fingers, "It's me."

"Bri? Is that you? It's three in the morning." I can hear him saying this as he sits up in bed, and I can picture exactly how he looks with his hair sticking up in all directions, his eyes still heavy with sleep.

"Yeah," I say as my heart goes up to my throat. "We need to talk. I mean, I know it's been a while, but I really need to talk to you."

"Can it wait?" he asks. "You know, normal people are usually sleeping right about now. Then again, you are pretty far from normal," he teases, and I can just imagine his easy-going smile slide across his face.

There is a long pause where we just listen to each other breathe. For a moment, it is like time has slipped backwards, and we are happy and together and whole. Then, I remember the reason I am calling in the first place.

"Ithinkimpregnant," My confession comes out rushed as a single word because I can barely stand to admit it out loud and force it into reality. I feel like I am going to throw up, although this has become a familiar sensation the past few weeks.

"What? Bri, what did you just say? Shit," he says and takes a deep breath which he lets out slowly. "Shit. Tell me this is a joke." I can see his hands covering his face through the phone line.

At this point, I am not sure whether to laugh or cry because it does seem like a joke. It is simply a sick twist of fate. It is something that happens to other girls, but not to smart girls like me.

"No. I took a test. I don't understand how this could have happened. I mean I understand how but not why. God, I don't know what happened." And then, I start to cry.

"Shit. After Callie's party. That must have been when. God, what are we going to do?"

"I don't know."

"What do you want me to do, Bri?"

"I don't know."

"Bri, help me out here," he says. Then all at once he decides, "I'm coming to pick you up. We need to talk."

"Okay," I say as I wipe my eyes with the side of my hand. I grab a coat, head to the front door, and wait for him, like always.

-

"Bri, you have to get up!" yells my younger brother as he enters my room and proceeds to fling a pillow at my head. "You have to get ready for school."

Somehow in my comatose state I manage to say, "Leave me alone, dorkwad." I pull the covers up around me even tighter, trying to disappear. He leaves, but not before smacking me with another pillow.

Today is the day that I have been dreading, even though I knew it was inevitable: I can no longer hide the fact that my stomach protrudes way past the waistband of my jeans. I can't go to school and be that girl, I think as I lay a hand on my belly. Until this point, I could hide under layers of fabric or loose tops, but my stomach seems to have doubled in the few days that I have had off from monotonous classes and disgusting lunches.

My morning is a blur until fifth period when I can escape into the library during my study hall and see him. The bell rings, and within seconds he appears in the seat next to me. Of course, we are hidden in the corner, not taking any chances.

"Everyone is staring at me," are the first words to come out of my mouth.

He responds, "Well, it must be because you're so beautiful. At least that's why I can't keep my eyes off of you."

"Shut up," I say with a grin. "You know that I know why. Look at it!" I say pointing to my stomach. He glances around the room before he places a hand on it, and I feel his warmth through my shirt. I grab his hand and lock our fingers together before I ask him the question I have asked him every day since he picked me up in December. "Did you break up with her, yet?" I ask this expecting him to say no, but always hoping for him to say yes.

"It's not that simple, and you know that," he says like usual, avoiding the issue.

"But what about us?" I ask. It did not take long for us to fall back into our same routine after the fallout of that October night. Now, in February, it is even more important that he chooses me because of the baby.

"You know I want that more than anything," he says, "but I just don't know how to make it work right now. I wish I had met you before."

I ask, "Before what?"

"Her," he says.

-

The whispers are getting worse as I make my way down the hallway towards my math class. "I heard she's a big slut," says some girl who believes that she is out of my ear reach. I walk by her with my head held high while my stomach parts the hallway like Moses did with the Red Sea. Inside, I want to scream out. I want people to know about him and me. I want people to judge him just like they judge me.

In the midst of this, as if anything could get worse, I see them walking together hand-in-hand. It is a blow to my stomach unlike I have ever felt before, but I keep walking right past them until I reach the safety of the desk in which I do not fit anymore. Inside, I want to scream out. Inside, I make my decision, since he could not make one at all. I cannot keep up with the charade he keeps playing anymore. The lies have become an intricate dance, but I am forgetting the steps. Tonight, I decide, I will tell him. Maybe, I think, he will finally make up his mind. Of course, he must know there is only so much longer that I can wait.

-

"Do you know what it's like to love someone so much that your heart is so full that it might burst?" I say to him, "Because that's exactly how I feel about you."

He stares back at me, but doesn't speak. I take in the clinical surroundings as I lay in a bed with a hospital gown on, my hair spread out on the pillow above my head. My mother is fluttering around the room snapping picture after picture. "Mom! Stop it! I just want to relax, okay?" I say exasperated.

"Fine. Fine, Bri, but it's not everyday that you have one of my grandbabies," she sing-songs on her way out of the room.

We are alone again and sharing my bed. I reach my IV-encrusted arm up towards his head to rub my fingers in his hair. "Hey, baby," I say, "what're we doing once we're out of here?" He yawns, and his eyes are closed. Pretty soon I join him, drifting off into sleep.

When I wake up, he is no longer in my room, and I initially panic. Then, I remember where we are, and the knots in my stomach relax. A nurse comes in to check me one more time and then tells me the best news I have heard in days; I can finally go home.

She hands me him. I cradle him in my arms; it is a perfect fit. I look at him and smile because I have never seen anything this beautiful or flawless in my whole life. We are wheeled through the hospital corridors and out through the front door. The sun is shining, and when I look down into my arms I say to him, "I couldn't ask for anything more, baby. You're the only man for me."