3.3 Live While We’re Young

Encouraged by Hector’s apparent change of heart — and in spite of any reservations concerning Martin Luther’s message– February continued to see, and share her bed, with Hector while juggling her toddler and her career.  In the meantime, Hector himself never offered any clarification as to his relationship — or lack thereof — with Kurt.

Time passed.  Both Martin Luther and February remained in something of a state of stasis; only March seemed to grow at all.

Martin Luther continued to climb the stylist ladder and see Tam from time to time, but he was beginning to feel like the relationship he’d had with his high school sweetheart had staled.  Although they had been together for years, Martin Luther felt as though he barely knew his own boyfriend.  Their relationship seemed more physical than anything else, and Martin Luther was starting to wonder if he wanted something more.  February, on the other hand, remained completely enamored — and entirely unwilling to commit — to Hector.  Eventually, it became clear that Hector had begun seeing a gentleman named Jamal, but he continued to visit the Callender household regularly.  His relationship with February remained steamy, although he had a harder time bonding with March.  In what seemed like mere days, March grew from a giggly little baby that loved nothing more than finger painting into a moody, occasionally even petulant, little girl.  If Hector had taken his time trying to get to know his daughter as an infant and toddler, he appeared to flat out avoid March as a child altogether, a fact that didn’t go entirely unnoticed by February.

“You know, Hector,” February began one day as the pair strolled idly about downtown one evening.  “You really ought to spend more time with March.  I know she knows you’re her father, but I think it’s hard on her to see how much all the other dads in her school interact with their kids while you barely seem able to spare her a word every now and then.”  Hector was quiet for so long that February was afraid she’d made him angry.   She was just beginning an apology when finally Hector sighed.

“I know.  You’re so right.  I love her.  I do.  But I just don’t know what to do with her.  She’s so different from the way she was as a baby.  Back then, it was easy to make her laugh…now any little thing seems to set her off.”  February nodded silently, reflecting on the massive meltdown March had had just that morning after February had casually remarked that her pink striped shirt clashed just a bit with her aqua plaid shorts.  “Yeah,” February agreed ruefully, “she has become quite a handful in that way.”

“Well…” Hector began hesitantly, “I think it might help if I spent more time with her…”

“That’s a great idea!” February broke in excitedly, “Maybe you can come over more often, or even have her at your place from time to time!”

“Actually…well, actually I was thinking more along the lines of perhaps having the three of us live together.  You know, like a family.”  February froze, her heart lodged in her throat.  Hector stopped as well, grazing February’s cheek gently with the tips of his fingers.  “My house has always been a bit lonely since Mom died,” he continued softly, “You girls would be more than welcome there with me.”  February felt certain she was having a panic attack; her pulse was racing madly in her throat, and a fine sheet of sweat had coated her brow in spite of the relative coolness of the evening.  She knew that she should be thrilled by Hector’s proposal, but the idea of leaving her house to move in with him terrified her.  Reluctant to reject Hector’s offer outright, February cast her eyes about desperately  for a source of distraction; they landed on Martin Luther’s salon just across the street.

“Hey!” she gasped eagerly, “Look!  There’s the salon…you think my brother’s still at work?”

“Uh…I don’t know…why would it matter…?” Hector stammered, confused by the sudden change in subject.

“Oh! Well, I was thinking, having March was such a…novel…experience that I might want to commemorate it…like with a tattoo!”  February explained, beaming exuberantly.  Actually, the idea of getting a tattoo hadn’t ever crossed February’s mind, but if the acquisition of one would take Hector’s mind off of moving in together, she was more than willing to subject herself to a little ink.

“A tattoo?” Hector repeated dubiously.  “You’ve never mentioned getting a tattoo before…”

“I know,” February said, dragging Hector into the salon.  “But I really want one.”

“Well, it kind of looks like they’re closed now.  Maybe we should come back later,” Hector suggested, surveying the dimly lit, deserted space.  “Why don’t we go back to my place for tonight?  Maybe we can talk about converting an area into an office space so that you can work on your writing — ”

“Oh look!” February interrupted, brandishing an intimidating-looking apparatus, “Here’s the tattoo gun!  Hey!  I have a great idea…why don’t YOU give me a tattoo?”

“Uhm.  What?”  Hector stared in disbelief as February thrust the tool into his hand and settled herself into the tattoo chair.  “February…you’ve got to be joking.  I am certainly not qualified to give anyone a tattoo.”

“Oh, Hector, it’s easy!  Martin Luther showed me how to do it, you just push that pedal there, and try to keep your hand steady.  They’ve even got stencils and stuff ready; I’ve already drawn on what I want…you just follow the lines.”  Hector edged forward uncertainly, incredulous that he was even considering such a foolhardy project.  February, already stripped down to the bathing suit she’d been wearing underneath her street clothes, eyed Hector warily as the first inklings of doubt began to invade her nerves.

Hector raised his eyes to meet her’s.  “February…are you really certain you want to go through with this?”  February gazed unsteadily at the tattoo gun, noting uneasily how the dim light glinted off of the sharp edge of the needle.  Hector was right.  How could she possibly think that allowing an untrained individual to put a permanent mark on her body was a GOOD thing?

On the other hand…she’d already come this far; she would just seem neurotic if she backed out now.  Besides, getting tattooed by the father of her child was sort of romantic, she supposed…

“Of course I’m sure,” February said out loud.  “What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Tetanus.  Permanent scarring.  Possibly an infection that leads to loss of limb,” thought Hector to himself as he studied the simple dolphin design that February had inscribed on her arm.  Nevertheless, he would do it, he knew, no matter how foolish the enterprise proved to be.  February seemed to have that sort of effect on him; she always seemed to break through his stodgy shell and get him to really live life instead of merely existing from day to day.

“Okay then,” Hector gulped, steadying his hand.  “On the count of three….one….two….”  February squeezed her eyes shut and turned her head away.

7 February Has a Funny Looking Face
A few seconds later, she heard the ominous buzzing of the tattoo gun, shortly followed by a sharp prickling, burning sensation in her upper arm.  Gritting her teeth, February clenched her fists in her lap and tried hard not to squirm.

4 Hector Tattoos February

Although uncomfortable, the feel of the needles wasn’t nearly as unbearable as February had feared; however, she couldn’t summon the nerve to actually look at Hector’s work until he was preparing to add color to the completed outline.

“You all right?” Hector asked, his forehead beaded with perspiration.

“Sure,” February responded gamely, inspecting the reddened flesh of her arm.  Though noticeably swollen, the area just below her shoulder now clearly bore the image of a dolphin.  She smiled thinly and turned away again as Hector began filling in the shape.  In what seemed like no time at all, Hector was turning the machine off and carefully wiping away the excess ink and gore that coated February’s skin.

“Okay,” Hector murmured shakily, “That seems to just about do it.  I think we should get you straight home so that Martin Luther can instruct you on how to care for it so as to prevent infection.”

“Okay,” February agreed, admiring her new body art in the shop’s mirror.  To her’s — and Hector’s — relief, Hector had done a very good job; the average observer would never be able to tell that the tattoo was the first work of a complete amateur.  From the doorway, Hector watched February, marvelling at how quickly she balked at the mention of any sort of commitment, yet would accept a permanent mark on her body from him without question.

“Shall we?” he invited, gallantly opening the door.  Linking arms, the couple left the shop and turned towards home.

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My Little Pony….

Hey people!  Like My Little Ponies?  Me too!  Check out the new tab where I’ve added my unofficial legacy family, the Mylipones, for your reading and downloading pleasure.  🙂

PS: I know the colors aren’t all too accurate; I’m still working on tweaking the shades a bit.  I’ll reupload them when/if I ever get them perfect; in the meantime, feel free to tamper with them on your own.

3.2 Some Nights

The months flew by in a hazy blur of diapers, tantrums, feedings, and more diapers.  Martin Luther, who had planned originally to move out with Tam as soon as possible, changed his mind after seeing how hard of a time his big sister was having being a single mom.

He faithfully maintained his stylist position and happily continued making over the ratty and tatty citizens of Legacy Town.  He had discovered that he had finally found something to occupy his erratic mind; styling and makeovers began to consume his every waking thought.  He didn’t remember feeling this fulfilled since the happy, carefree days of his youth when all he ever thought about was Marie.  Gradually, although he continued to help out around the house and would on occasion hang out with Tam, Martin Luther began withdrawing from nearly everyone in his life not directly related to the Salon.

Meanwhile, February was doing the best she could to keep up with her hectic writing schedule and raise her daughter.  March continued to be a demanding baby that kept February up at all hours of the night; to make matters more complicated, Hector continued to seem utterly disinterested in helping out with his infant daughter.  Although he almost always refused to pay child support, February insisted on trying to reconstruct their friendship, at the very least.  Hector seemed content to humor his former friend and lover, and would nearly always visit her house when invited.  Slowly, the friendship that had been shattered began to rebuild.

Finally, at March’s first birthday party, the deep freeze that had broken both Hector’s and February’s hearts seemed to thaw a bit.  As worn out as she was, February had managed to put together a respectable crowd to herald the first year that February had managed to keep her daughter alive without going insane.  Any member of the gathering could have escorted March to make her birthday wishes, yet Hector insisted on carrying his little girl to her cake himself.

March had grown into a beautiful toddler, with the jet black hair that Hector’s father had sported and February’s deep blue eyes.  Hector stood with February after the festivities of the day had dwindled to a close and surveyed their sleeping daughter as she lay peacefully in her crib.

“We didn’t do so bad,” Hector whispered to February, breaking the comfortable silence that had grown between them.  Smiling, February nodded in agreement.  “Er…that is to say, you haven’t done so bad…you’ve done marvelously, really.”  February froze, unsure how to respond to any kind of praise from Hector.  “I know that I….well…I really haven’t been there for you.  Either of you.  And I wasn’t really fair to you, about the, ah, circumstances surrounding March’s conception…” Hector continued hesitantly, trailing off uncertainly.  When February remained silent, Hector cleared his throat awkwardly before quickly finishing his impromptu apology.  “I just wanted you to know that I really do appreciate everything you’ve done with raising our daughter on your own, and even letting me come and see her, and I’m really sorry for treating you so shabbily before.”  Finally, February turned to him, the sheen of tears that filled her eyes glowing in the little light that shone from the window.  Wordlessly, she leaned close to Hector, cradling his face with her hands, and kissed him.

****

“Whose bed have your boots been under?”

Flushing, February set March’s bowl of oatmeal in front of her and turned to face her brother.

“For your information, I don’t own any boots…but if I did, they would always be under my own bed, thank you very much.”

“Well…on his side of the bed, he’s sleeping like a baby….dreams are dancin’ in his head, lying with his lady,” Martin Luther retorted.  February’s blush deepened and she ducked her head to avoid Martin Luther’s gaze.  “It’s not like that,” she protested weakly.  “We’re…you know, just friends.  Having fun.  He knows that.”

“So it’s all about the nookie?”

“No!” February exclaimed, horrified that she and Martin Luther were even having this conversation.  “No, of course not, we have March, and…I mean, no, we’re not an ‘item,’ but it’s not…all about the nookie.”  In her high chair, March laughed suddenly, as if she understood the context of her mother’s conversation with her uncle.

February cut her eyes to her daughter before glowering back at Martin Luther.  “Do we really have to talk about this in front of the baby?” she hissed.

“With so little experience, her mind not yet cognizant,” Martin Luther answered, shrugging at his sister.  “Anyway, they split.”  Ice formed around February’s heart at Martin Luther’s last pronouncement.  Trying to disguise her sudden apprehension with aggravation, she turned back to March, wiping the oatmeal smeared around the toddler’s mouth and growled, “Who split?  What are you talking about now?  Why do you even talk like that, Martin?  You didn’t when we were kids.”

Martin Luther, his face paled slightly, paused a long moment before finally responding to February’s question.  “My Marie…I hide myself.  She let go of my hand.  From darkness, dreams are deserted…I remember her whispering yet.  I was with her too long….for she ain’t the same.  Of this, I can’t say very much,” he murmured almost to himself in a dazed voice.  Realizing February was staring at him, wide-eyed, he broke out of his stupor and cleared his throat.  “Anyway, rumor has it he ain’t got his love anymore,” he concluded, his usual demeanor seemingly restored.  Before February could question him further, he snagged an apple from the fruit bowl and left for the studio, munching the fruit and humming tunelessly as he walked.

What did he mean?” February thought to herself, momentarily forgetting March, who had finished her breakfast and was beginning to kick her heels restlessly against the confines of her high chair.  “Is he talking about Hector and Kurt?  Did they split up?  If they did, was it…because of ME?  Do I want it to be…?”  Since the evening of March’s birthday party, February and Hector’s relationship had practically been restored overnight; the twosome had started spending most of their days — as well as their nights — with each other. However, while February loved being with Hector, and certainly enjoyed the things they did in bed together, she couldn’t say for certain that she wanted a real relationship with him.  February turned her mind to the more disturbing image of her brother, slack-faced and pale, as he’d uttered those strange words…what was it?  Something about Marie?  Was he talking about that old doll?  Before February could follow her train of thought to any clear conclusion, March, her patience with being trapped in her high chair finally dissolved, released an ear-splitting howl.  “Oh, Marchie baby, I’m so sorry,” February gasped, hurrying to release her screaming child.

And anyway, I’m sure that Hector feels exactly the same way that I do,” February told herself as March crawled off to play with her toy xylophone.

****

3.1 Call Me Maybe

In what seemed like no time at all, unbearable cramps woke February from a deep sleep.  “Oh no,” thought February, “The baby’s coming!”  She felt so unprepared; after the disastrous way things had ended with Cameron — not to mention the horrific events the last time she’d seen Hector — she had thrown herself into her writing, loosely basing the torrid events of her short life in a novel she called Right, But Wrong.  Of course she hadn’t forgotten that she’d soon be a mother…but she was completely unprepared for the reality; she hadn’t even gotten around to buying a crib.  Terrified, February drove herself to the hospital, where she gave birth to a baby girl she named March.

March was not an easy baby, especially for an exhausted, emotionally overwrought single mother.  Between feedings, diaper changes, and generally comforting her newborn daughter, February could barely find time to shower, eat, or use the bathroom, and she never got a full night’s sleep.  Martin Luther helped occasionally…when he remembered that March existed…but was usually busy doing his own thing, especially after Tam finally turned eighteen.

Seeing her little brother with his boyfriend was bittersweet for February; she loved that he was so in love, but she was so lonely.  Although, surprisingly, she rarely found herself thinking of Cameron, she still missed Hector terribly.  She called him every now and again, using March as an excuse to talk to him, and, although he was always courteous with her, he maintained a polite distance.  Gone was the camaraderie they had once shared; furthermore, although he seemed interested in his daughter, he never offered to help care for her.  February told herself she didn’t mind; she even felt that she deserved it after what she had done to both Hector and Cameron…still, she wished that he would at least come see her.  Finally, she summoned the courage to invite him over; to her surprise, Hector agreed.

****


February snuggled her infant daughter close as they waited patiently for Hector to arrive.  Hector had always been punctual, in the past…of course, that was before all of the misunderstandings that had ruined February and Hector’s friendship.  Although Hector had sounded civil enough over the phone, his first visit with March had been scheduled nearly an hour ago, and there was still no sign of him to be found.  Always fussy, March had begun to grow restive and February was just about to give up and go back inside when an errant ray of sunlight caught a familiar thatch of brilliantly red hair, heralding Hector’s arrival.

“Hey, you,” February offered Hector a crooked smile as he crossed into her yard, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his cargo shorts.  Hector nodded and returned her smile halfheartedly, but his eyes remained focused on the squirming pink blanket she held.

“Is that her?” he asked.  February nearly retorted that no, this was actually a completely different baby that she’d been holding in her yard for three quarters of an hour, but thought better of it.

“Yeah, this is the little screamer.  Isn’t she gorgeous?”  She pushed back a fold of the blanket so that Hector could better see March’s perfect, round face.  “Would you like to hold her?”  Hector, who had leaned forward to look at his baby, rolled abruptly back onto his heels, his hands burrowing even deeper into his pockets as if he expected that February would force the baby onto him.  “Er…no, that’s quite all right.  She looks a little fractious; I’m sure you know how to handle her much better than I.”

“Well, she did get a little…fractious…while we were out waiting on you,” February remarked, trying to keep an edge out of her voice.  “She could probably use a bottle; do you want to come in and feed her?”  Hector actually backed up slightly at February’s offer, though whether his nervousness was due to entering the house or feeding the baby February couldn’t be sure.  “Oh no, no, it’s probably best if I just stay out here…but please, feel free to bring her inside and get her comfortable.  I don’t mind remaining out here.”

“Oh…okay,” February answered agreeably, although she couldn’t help wondering why Hector had come all the way out today if he didn’t even want to hold his own baby.  She suspected that he still felt uncomfortable around her and planned to leave as soon as she brought March inside; to her surprise, she found him waiting still when she came back out, in spite of the fact that she’d taken her time settling March down.  He turned as she approached, gesturing towards the water slide that Martin Luther had recently purchased on a whim.  “I don’t remember seeing that around before,” Hector pronounced a bit awkwardly.

“Uh…no, it’s fairly new….you wanna play on it?” February asked, nonplussed when Hector eagerly agreed.  The pair spent much of the remainder of the evening slipping merrily along on the rubbery toy, careful to keep their conversation light, until February was finally forced to give in to her mounting exhaustion and call it a night.  “I’ll just go get the baby so you can tell her good-bye,” she said, emerging a few minutes later with her refreshed, sweetly cooing daughter.  Though Hector still made no move to actually touch March, he seemed content to spend several minutes drinking in the sight of his now serene baby daughter.

“She’s really beautiful,” he breathed reverently.  “She’s so…pure, like snow or…or lamb’s wool.”

“Yeah,” February agreed affectionately, surreptitiously eying Hector’s still damp, shirtless torso.  “She’s just as pretty as her daddy is handsome.”  Hector, picking up on the flirtatious undertones February had unconsciously injected into her remark, recoiled immediately, frowning disapprovingly.

“I should really be going,” he said gruffly, tugging his shirt back on.  February nodded silently in resignation, keeping her eyes chastely on March until Hector had clothed himself.  He hesitated just a moment before bidding her farewell in a stiff voice and beginning his walk home.  A few moments after he’d left, February went inside to get ready for bed, convinced that, no matter how she felt about Hector, whatever shortlived romance there had been between them was over for good.

2.15 Wide Awake

After the fight with Cameron, February spent the next two months being pregnant and hoping that time and space would allow Cameron’s wounds to heal enough for him to forgive her.  She avoided Hector, in spite of Martin Luther’s not so subtle hints and the gnawing of her own conscience.  February’s confrontation with Cameron had left her dreading Hector’s reaction when he found out he was going to be a father with someone he wasn’t even in a relationship with.  As usual, Martin Luther eventually provided the guidance that gave February enough courage to broach the subject with Hector.

“February, listen, I’ve been doing some thinking, and I can’t fight this feeling anymore,” Martin Luther began one morning at the breakfast table.  February sighed, already exhausted by the prospect of trying to divine Martin Luther’s meaning out of the muddle of words that normally made up his monologues.  Sensing her displeasure, Martin Luther opted to keep his message short.

“Tell him,” he said, glancing meaningfully at her bulging belly before getting up and leaving for the studio.  Crestfallen, February buried her face in her hands for a moment before taking a deep breath and dialing Hector’s number.

****

An hour and a half later, February found herself waddling down to the secluded fishing spot where Hector had asked her to meet him.  Like Cameron, Hector had been delighted to hear from February, although his normally chipper demeanor had been significantly dampened by the recent death of his mother.  “It’d be great to see you,” Hector had remarked wistfully towards the end of the conversation.  “I’m just out fishing, you know, trying to ‘find myself’ or whatever…why don’t you come on up?  It would do my heart good.”

“Ah…that would be nice…I mean, there is something I kind of need to tell you about,” February had responded, absently grazing her burgeoning girth with her fingertips.  Now she took a deep breath, smoothed down her billowy blouse, and prepared herself for the ugly scene she was sure would proceed shortly after greeting Hector.  To February’s surprise, Hector regarded her newly lush figure with frank admiration.

“Wow, February, it’s been longer than I’d realized…you look…amazing,” Hector gushed, a silent question forming in his eyes as he gazed appreciatively at his friend.

“Yeah.  I mean, thank you.  I’m pregnant.  With your baby,” February babbled, too unnerved to attempt a more graceful pronouncement.  She squared her shoulders and prepared for the inevitable outburst that would soon break Hector’s stunned silence.  Instead, his eyes lit up as a wide grin slowly began to take over his face.

“Really?” he gasped, clasping his hands together excitedly.  “That’s terrific news!”  February stared at him, dumbfounded.

“You mean…you’re not mad?” she asked, too stunned to feel relieved by Hector’s unexpectedly pleased reaction.

“Mad?  No way, I couldn’t be happier!  I love kids, always wanted some of my own…I only wish that Mom was around to see her grandkid, but, regardless, this baby is going to have everything he, or she, could ever want, aren’t you, sweetie-pie?” enthused Hector as he leaned over to coo adoringly at February’s belly.

Happiness flooded February’s body as she watched the joy that radiated from Hector transform his features.  “Oh, Hector…I’m so glad you feel this way.  I’ve been so worried about how you’d react, after what happened with Cameron and everything; now I think maybe things are gonna be okay.  You don’t have to break off things with Kurt, of course, and Cameron…well, Cam will come around.  He just has to, and what happened between us just won’t ever happen again….what’s the matter, Hector?  Why are you looking at me like that?”  During February’s elated monologue, Hector had straightened and was now staring at her, wearing a look of confused suspicion.

“What do you mean, ‘Cameron will come around’…?” he asked.

“Oh!” February exclaimed, misunderstanding the meaning behind Hector’s sudden change in manner.  “I’m sorry, Hector…I told Cameron about the baby first.  I wanted to tell you, of course, but I thought he should hear it from me instead of someone else, just in case it got out.  Not that I guess it really mattered, in the end…he was still pretty upset,” she sighed pensively.

“…why would he be so upset?” Hector questioned, frowning.

“Well, because we’ve been together so long…” February stammered, then broke off as Hector’s expression shifted ominously.  A cold feeling of dread began to gather in the pit of her stomach.

“Together?”  Hector repeated.  “You and Cameron?  As in, he’s your boyfriend?”

“Yes…of course.  Since high school…I thought you knew,” February responded.  Hector’s face had grown as bright as his hair; he took a step back from February as if he needed more distance to decipher what sort of person she actually was.  “I don’t understand,” February murmured miserably.  “You have a boyfriend…why should it matter if I do, too?”

“It’s different with us,” Hector growled, his eyes stony. “Kurt and I have an understanding. We aren’t to see other men, but are free to have relationships with women, should we choose to do so. I never would have become involved with you, had I known that you were not free.”  February gaped at him, horrified and ashamed. She’d had no idea that Hector had never been cheating on Kurt with her, nor that he’d been unaware of her relationship with Cameron. All this time, she’d merely assumed that they had both been involved in an illicit affair. She felt so guilty.

February was certain that the situation could not possibly get any worse as she and Hector regarded each other in a silence that was becoming increasingly more awkward; she realized she was wrong when she heard a familiar voice behind her say, “Well, well, well…might’ve known you’d be up here with…him.”

“Hello, Cameron,” February muttered, turning to greet her estranged boyfriend.  “Hector and I were just…” she trailed off, unsure of how to finish her sentence.  Hector filled the tense pause.

“February was just explaining her…situation…to me.  I assure you, Cameron, I had no idea that you and she are involved.”

Were involved,” Cameron corrected coldly.  “That’s what I came to say.  You and me, we’re through, February.  I went to your house to tell you in person… figured it was the right thing to do, not that you deserve it.  Your brother told me you’d be here.  I wanted to get it over with…didn’t realize I’d be interrupting…something.”  February cringed, but otherwise took Cameron’s news rather stoically; given all of the more recent events, not much could shock her at that moment.  “Yeah, so…you and your baby daddy are now completely free to…whatever,” Cameron concluded rather lamely.  Hector shook his head furiously.

“Oh, no.  No, of course I’ll be there for my child — assuming it even IS my child — but I want no part of the mother,” he pronounced emphatically, behaving almost as if February wasn’t even standing right in front of him.

“Well…whatever,” Cameron repeated, turning to begin his trek homeward.  February watched despondently as her former sweetheart walked away without even bothering to spare her a backwards glance.  “Well…I suppose that’s that, then,” she thought dismally.  “There’s really nothing left to say, either to Cameron or to Hector.”  Casting Hector one last sad look, February began her own journey towards home to decide what to do next.

2.14 Where Have You Been

February stared down at the test in her hand and waited for the imminent shock and fear she knew she should be feeling to take its hold on her.  It was hard to believe that what ultimately amounted to nothing but a small, cheap bit of plastic could hold the power to alter her life so drastically…yet there she was, sitting on the edge of the bathtub in her family’s tiny bathroom, feeling nothing but wave after wave of numbness.  The four short months since February’d awakened  groggy and confused in her parents’ bed next to Hector seemed like an eternity ago.  She had at first believed herself small again, snuggled deep under the comfort of her parents’ presence after waking from a childhood nightmare, until she’d seen Hector’s shock of red hair and all of the sorrowful memories had come flooding back.

A solitary tear trailed its lonely way down February’s cheek now as she continued to stare blankly at the device confirming what she had been suspecting for some time now.  At first, she hadn’t thought much of it when her cycles had stopped; she’d blamed stress from losing her parents, and, of course, her own act of betrayal without stopping to think that sleeping with Hector maybe had more to do with missing her periods than just causing her some emotional anguish.  Then her weight had started climbing, while certain smells and foods made her stomach turn.  Suspicions had begun weighing on her mind at that point, but she ignored them in the hopes that the problem wouldn’t exist so long as she failed to acknowledge it.  However, Martin Luther, who was spending more and more time out of the house now that he’d secured a job as a stylist at the local salon, took one look at his sister after not seeing her for about a week and remarked, “You’re having his baby…what a wonderful way to show how much you love him?”

“Oh, shut up,” February snapped, glowering moodily at her brother.  Martin Luther raised his eyebrows but refrained from making any additional comments.  Later that evening, February had found the pregnancy test sitting unobtrusively on her bed and had finally condescended to face the consequences of her actions.

“Well,” she sighed, tucking the used kit in the trashcan and wiping her face.  “I guess it’s time to talk to Cameron.”

****

Cameron was just heading out of the Wan household where he’d been hanging out all evening when his cell phone rang.  The sight of February’s name on his screen set his pulse racing, just as it had been since the day she’d been assigned his lab partner in high school so many years ago.  He hadn’t heard much from her in the past few months since her dad had died, so he was naturally elated that she was actually calling him for a change.

“Hey beautiful, what’s up?  It’s good to hear your voice,” Cameron enthused, then sobered as he registered February’s somber tone.   “You need to talk?  Nothing too bad, I hope,” he joked, hoping to lighten the mood; unfortunately, his forced joviality did nothing to improve February’s spirits.  If anything, she actually sounded even sadder when she asked if it was all right for her to come by his house.  “Oh, hey, don’t worry about coming all the way out there; I’m just over at the Wan’s house; it’d be much easier to meet me here, or I can come to you — no?  Ok…if you’re sure…I can’t wait to see you.”  Cameron hung up, concern creasing his features.  The last time he’d heard February sound quite so serious had been the time she’d met him at the stadium to break things off with him.  He had instantly known that day what her intentions had been, and, although he’d never been sure why she hadn’t gone through with it, he’d always been grateful that she had seemed to change her mind.  He’d also been relieved when she stopped hanging around that Hector guy so much; there had been a time when he’d really begun to think that something might be going on between them.  Trying to calm his nerves, Cameron settled down on the steps of the Wan’s front porch to anxiously wait for his girlfriend to arrive.

It wasn’t long before February rounded the corner and began to make her way down the street.  Excitement burst through Cameron at the sight of her in spite of the likelihood that she bore bad news; he jumped to his feet to greet her, then paused uncertainly.  He had actually seen February even less than he’d spoken to her since the death of her dad; he had been aware that February was avoiding him, but believed at the time that she had merely wished to grieve in private.  Now, cold dread poured like ice water down his heart as he regarded the figure of his girlfriend.  There was something subtly different about her, a foreign fullness that he may not have noticed had he seen her on a more regular basis.  He stood still and watched her slow approach until she stopped a few feet from him and regarded him solemnly.

“Hello, Cameron.”

“‘Lo, February.”  February hesitated a moment, struck by their sudden formality.  “I have something to tell you,” she finally murmured.

“You do.”  Meant as a question, Cameron’s utterance came out as a flat statement instead.  February flushed, then took a deep breath and began.

“Cameron, I…we’ve been together a long time, and you know that I love you…”  February paused, possibly waiting for Cameron to say something to encourage her; when he remained silent, she forced herself to continue.

“I…know this is going to be hard to take but…Cameron, I’m pregnant,” February finally managed to blurt out.

For a long moment, Cameron simply stared at February.  He wanted to feel surprise, shock, even anger, but all he seemed to feel as he looked into the tear-filled eyes of the girl he’d loved since they were teenagers was numbness.

“It’s Hector’s, isn’t it?” he asked quietly.  February nodded and then began spilling out  an explanation as to why it had all happened.  Cameron watched her silently, listening to the river of words she was pouring at his feet like an offering of wine, but not really hearing anything she was saying.  A spark of anger finally began to grow, fed by the sheer volume of sounds February was relentlessly expelling.

“Stop.  Just…stop talking.  Everything that’s coming out of your mouth is garbage,” he fumed.  Shocked, February tasted rich, coppery blood coat her bitten tongue as she abruptly snapped her mouth closed.

“How could you do this to me, to us?” Cameron continued.  “I love you….I changed everything for you.  I tried to give you space, and this is what you do?  You go behind my back and get yourself knocked up like…like some kind of back alley tramp??”  February cringed, but Cameron was too consumed with hurt and anger to notice, or care if he had.  “I know you, I know you better than everyone else, even that little red-headed freak you hang around with…I know why you did this.  I know it’s all about your parents, but dammit, February, why didn’t you come to ME for once?”

“I…I…I’m so sorry, Cameron, so sorry, please…you’re right, I should have come to you when my dad…just please —,” February stammered through the rain of tears that flooded her face and clogged her throat.  Cameron’s anger boiled over at the mere sight of her.

“Shut up!  Shut up!” he screamed, completely losing control of his temper.  “Just get away from me!  I don’t even want to look at you anymore!”

Terrified, February broke down.  “No, no, please Cameron, I love you so much, I do, please, I just want things to be ok, please…”  Cameron glared at her as she dissolved in tears in front of him, his face impassive.

“Go home, February.  Just…go,” he advised stonily before turning away from her and walking back into the Wan home, leaving February no choice but to return to her own house, exhausted and broken.

2.13 Brokenhearted

click click clack click clack clack…

February had been sitting in front of the computer for well over an hour, simply staring blankly at the screen, before the right words  to express the idea she’d been brewing finally began to leak into her brain.  Writing had always seemed like the obvious choice for her as a career…long hours of quiet solitude, setting her own hours, and working exclusively with her own ideas…so she was surprised when composing her first novel turned out to be a struggle for her.

“Dad could have warned me,” February had thought grumpily when she had first taken her place at the desk in the wee hours of the morning.  “But then, THAT might have required actual communication of some sort.”  A stab of guilt pierced February’s heart at what she perceived as an uncharitable thought towards her father…true, Connor had always been known for being pretty taciturn, but he had lost his wife only months ago.  With a sigh, February laboriously began the process of putting her thoughts onto paper.  Martin Luther got up to find his sister furiously typing away, her thoughts having finally begun to find their flow, and had unobtrusively settled himself at the kitchen table with his breakfast when Connor unexpectedly stepped out of his room.

“Kids,” he began awkwardly, training his gaze at his shoes rather than at his children, “I’m going to be going out in a bit to visit with your Uncle Jared.”  February spun in her seat and gaped openly at her father, all of her carefully constructed plot lines forgotten instantly.  Martin Luther, on the other hand, merely nodded approvingly.  “Good vibrations,” he mumbled through a mouthful of cereal.  “We are family.”  Connor nodded hesitantly at his son before shuffling back into his room and quietly closing the door.  Utterly perplexed, February swung her baffled gaze from her parents’ bedroom door to Martin Luther.  “What,” she demanded “was that all about?”  For once, however, Martin Luther seemed to have nothing to say; he merely smiled enigmatically at his sister and slurped noisily at his Frosted Llamas.   “Whatever,” February muttered, rolling her eyes and resettling herself in front of the computer.   She had only just regained her lost train of thought when the jarring notes of Martin Luther’s ringtone cut through her senses, sending everything she had just come up with dancing away just out of her reach once again.

“Martin Luther!” February shrieked, slamming her hand on the keyboard in frustration, “Seriously??”  Martin Luther grinned a bit evilly at his sister before pressing the “receive” button and holding the phone to his ear.  He didn’t say “hello;” he never did unless he was sure of the caller’s identity.  “Could be a stranger,” he would explain.  February couldn’t believe he still hadn’t gotten past the whole “stranger danger” thing…honestly, he was so weird.  She crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out, trying hard to distract her brother, but, aside from the tips of his ears flushing crimson, Martin Luther failed to take February’s bait.  Shrugging dismissively, February was just beginning to turn her attention once more to her slowly developing novel when Martin Luther’s face suddenly changed.  Before February’s concerned eyes, the somewhat vague smile that normally adorned her brother’s face slipped from his lips and his shoulders fell into a dismal slump.  “What is it?” February hissed, “What is going on?”  In response, Martin Luther wordlessly held his cell phone out to his sister.  With trepidation, February accepted the device and held it to her ear, expecting to hear Tam on the other end explaining that he no longer wanted to be Martin Luther’s boyfriend.  Instead, the distinct tones of Pauline Wan came shrieking through the earpiece.

“You hear me, Martin Luther??  Your uncle, he is dead in my house!  You come get him RIGHT NOW!”

“Oh, my Plumbob…” February murmured.  Quickly, she identified herself to Pauline, who wasted no time in explaining that Uncle Jared had come to visit the Wan home a few hours earlier before succumbing to a heart attack in their living room.  “I don’t want no stinky old dead man in front of my t.v. while I watch my shows!  You come get him right now!” Pauline was quick to add at the end of her shrill tirade.  “Erm…I think you’ll need to call the police about actually, ah, picking him up —” February managed before Pauline interrupted with an outraged squeal.  “Police?!  No way, that good for nothing scumbag Hank Goddard is police.  No way he stepping foot in my house!”  After several more minutes, February finally convinced Pauline to call Jared’s longtime girlfriend, Claire Ursine, while February contacted the police station, on the condition that the “good for nothing Officer Scumbag” not be assigned the case, of course.

“This can not be happening,” February groaned after disconnecting the call.  “Dad’s finally starting to get out of his funk and now we’ve gotta tell him that his brother just died.”

“What…?”  Unnoticed in all of the commotion, Connor had crept out of his room just in time to hear February’s upsetting proclamation.  February exchanged a horrified glance with her brother before turning concerned eyes to the suddenly ashen countenance of her father.  “My brother…?” Connor asked feebly, his trembling hand pressed tightly against his chest.

“He…died this morning, Dad; I’m so sorry….we’ll take care of everything, you won’t have to worry about — Dad?  Daddy?!”  As February spoke, Connor seemed to melt into himself until he was lying in a limp heap on the ground.  Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, yet far too fast for February to react at all.  Instead, Martin Luther made his way across the kitchen and knelt by his fallen father’s side, carefully cradling Connor’s slackened hand with more gentleness than February had been aware her brother was capable of.  After several tense moments, February tentatively called Martin Luther’s name; Martin Luther met her eyes and slowly shook his head.  “Another one bites the dust,” he intoned solemnly.

****

Well, people, this is it.  This is the moment right here that changed everything…although I guess you could say that it all really started after my mom died.  You know, I never could quite recall my exact actions right after Martin Luther’s little pronouncement…I don’t know why I automatically went to Hector instead of Cameron, unless it was ’cause Hector was with me when Mom passed and so maybe I thought he could help me get through Dad’s death, too….I dunno.  I guess it doesn’t really make any sense.  I really didn’t mean for the rest of it to happen; I barely even remember the rest of it happening…I remember showing up at Hector’s house right after he got home from work….I remember crying a lot, thinking that he looked really great in his work suit, feeling guilty about thinking that, and crying some more.  He convinced me to let him take me to the Bistro ’cause I was starving, and I felt guilty about that, too, because that would leave Martin Luther to take care of Dad all alone…but Hector reminded me that I had had to take care of Mom all alone, so it was only fair.  And then….well, and then I asked him to spend the night with me.  Well, not with me, but you know, at my house…I didn’t even want to go back, honestly, but I didn’t know where else to go…yeah, I know, this is the part where I probably should have called Cameron…I should have.  I know.  But I didn’t.

When we got to my place, it was all still and cold, and I honestly didn’t think Martin Luther was even home.  I told Hector he could take Martin Luther’s bed, and then I got into the shower.  When I got out, there was a light on in my parents’ room…I figured it must’ve been left on by mistake, but when I went in to turn it off, there was Hector, sleeping in my parents’ bed.  See, Martin Luther was in his own room, but I didn’t know that, and Hector got confused and just went into my parents’ room instead.  He didn’t know any better, but I totally freaked out.  I woke him up, crying like some kind of psycho, and he tried to calm me down…and…I don’t know, one minute I’m crying, and the next minute he’s kissing me, and, and….well.  I guess you probably can figure out the rest for yourselves.