Not the Vision

Josie Hunter

It was sunny outside. It was a good day, but that could all change after talking to Nate. Nobody knew that Nate and I messed around. Not even my best friend Kiara . . . and I tell her everything. It was best that way, though. No questions, no drama. And honestly, sneaking around was . . . kinda fun—trying to keep “us” a secret was fun. Not even his friends or the football team knew, and they did ev-er-y-thing together: practices, living in the same halls, eating even. It was weird, but Nate explained that it was to maintain their chemistry as it affects their performances on the field.

With my brown leather tote bag hanging from my shoulder, I cautiously walked across the apartments’ quad to his building. As much as I wanted to hurry over there, I didn’t. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

I’m glad Nate replied to my text quickly, though. Every minute that I didn’t tell him added to my swelling anxiety.

Stopping outside his building, I scanned the empty quad then I texted him:

Here

Seconds later, he replied:

Bet. Omw.

Moments later, a figure in basketball shorts, a t-shirt, socks, and slides staggered down the steps. As they approached the glass wall, I saw that it was Nate.

He held the door open for me as a smile spread on his face. Oh my God, he probably thinks I want to fuck, my thoughts mumbled. Internally, I chastised myself. My text was vague: U free rn? Wanted to see u. I didn’t want him to ask questions or be suspicious.

“’Sup, Tay.”

“Hey, Nate.” I offered a small grin as I walked through the door. He led us to the elevator.

We leaned back against the handrail and waited for the doors to close. “You lookin’ good,” he commented, his gruff voice ricocheting off the faux wooden panels. Yup, he definitely thinks we’re gonna fuck.

I looked down at my school sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers. “Thanks?” I giggled.

“What?” he chuckled. “I’m serious. You do.”

I just shook my head, gazing at the wall. Soon, the elevator repelled open to his floor. He gestured for me to go first. When we first met and he did that, I thought it was very gentleman-like, but now I know he just likes to look at my ass. Boys.

“Eyes to yourself, sir,” I tossed over my shoulder as I headed for his shared apartment. He texted me that none of his roommates were there as they had classes on Friday afternoons. “That’s not happenin’ today.”

He kissed his teeth, “Damn.”

We both laughed.

When we arrived at Apartment 308, Nate unlocked the door and, again, let me walk through first. An invisible fog of different men’s cologne and the faint smell of weed enveloped me. Every time I came up here, it always surprised me how the boys kept their apartment fairly clean. I have a younger brother and he’s a hot mess.

Nate stood behind the counter in the kitchen with a mischievous smile gracing his brown face. “Wassup? You wanted to see me. . .”

I sat in one of the navy-blue round bar stools. “Yep.” I tried to stay as calm and as optimistic as possible.

Nate nodded his head. “Want anything? Snack? Drink?”

“Nope. I’m fine.”

“A’ight weirdo,” he chortled, side-eying me as he plucked a water bottle from the fridge then plopped down in the stool next to me. “So wassup?” He tapped my knee before downing some water.

My mouth fell open, but no words came out. I cleared my throat and said, “I, uh, have something for you.” I removed the small grey gift bag from my purse that sat in my lap.

His syrup-brown eyes widened as he sat his bottle on the white laminate counter. “You have somethin’ for me? You shouldn’t have,” Nate laughed, retrieving the bag before rifling through all the white tissue paper.

My heart was thumping against my chest as I tried to stop squirming on that tiny-ass bar stool. And my armpits started to prick with sweat.

Nate must’ve arrived at the object when he paused. Oh shit. I tried to swallow, but my throat was dry. With wide eyes, I focused on Nate. The only noise in the apartment seemed to be my pounding heart.

“You shouldn’t have,” Nate breathed out, meeting my gaze. His eyes were big, and his mouth was slightly ajar.

“What?” escaped my mouth.

He pulled the pregnancy test out the bag. For some reason, seeing it in his hand made this whole thing feel real. “Well um,” he cleared his throat and abruptly stood up to pace, “what’re you sayin’?”

“I’m saying I’m pregnant and that it’s your baby.”

He stopped and scoffed, “My baby?”

“Your baby.”

“You fuckin’ wit me right now?”

“I’m not fuckin’ witchu. You’re the only person I’ve had sex with . . . ever,” I whispered, glancing around as if his roommates were in earshot. “It’s your baby, Nate.”

He continued pacing. “You serious?”

“Deadass.” I stopped trying to watch him as he traversed the living room, so I decided to stare at the grey carpet.

“I want a paternity test when the baby born.”

My head shot up. “Are you seriously denying that this is your child?” I asked, attitude distorting my voice.

“How am I supposed to know dis my baby?”

“Because like I said, you’re the only person I’ve had sex with. You know me, Nate. . . I know we use protection—Maybe the condom broke, but whatever happened, happened and now I’m pregnant.”

Nate blew out some air and sat down, stammering.

“I’m not a hoe. I’m not one of these girls out here that be fuckin’ any and every guy.” I motioned towards the window.

“I know that, Tay. I’m just-I’m just—I ‘on’t know.” He shook his head. It looked like his thoughts were zooming. “You for real only had sex wit me?”

I nodded.

His face scrunched up in confusion. “Well why-why would you do dat?”

“Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout? I’m not tryna get STDs—,”

“Well, I’ve fucked different girls,” he interrupted me before he stood up to pace again. I had a feeling that he had sex with other girls but hearing him say it hurt a li’l. It shouldn’t’ve, but it did. I shouldn’t’ve expected him to only be exclusively messing with me when we’re both single. That was our situation.

I clenched my teeth to calm myself down. “I know that. We aren’t together.” Pause. “You think I wanted to get pregnant?”

“I’m just-just tryna wrap my head around dis.” Silence. “I need some time.”

“Well how much? . . . You know a baby gets here in nine months, right?”

Nate sat down again, his hands cradling his head, the sunlight peeking through the blinds accentuated his waves. “It’s the beginnin’ of the semester—,”

“I know that.”

Nate sighed as his leg bounced. “Football season just started, man. . .”

“I know that, too. You act like I planned to trap you wit a baby.”

“I’m just sayin’ Tay. . . I’m just-I’m just tryna figure this out, a’ight?” Nate did some breathing exercises as he rubbed his hands on his shorts. “I need some time.”

I stood up and began to gather the giftbag.

“Leave it,” Nate interjected. My eyes met his. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking, what decisions he was considering. “I want a paternity test, Taylor,” he said definitively. That shattered my optimism.

I gritted my teeth and swallowed the vulgarities I wanted to hurl at him. “I’m going home to tell my parents that I’m pregnant with your baby.” Then I left, slamming his door as I marched down the steps and out of the building. The Grey Run apartments had started to suffocate me.

I pulled into the driveway of my childhood home. The red brick was stately. My mother’s plants looked healthy. Everything looked how I left it a month and a half ago.

I parked my car and hauled my small suitcase out of my trunk before climbing the stairs and entering through the front door. My parents always left the front door unlocked when they expected my arrival. It was one of the things I really loved about them: they were always welcoming with a warm embrace. Hopefully that stays true when I tell them about this baby.

“Mom?” I called out, my voice echoing in the foyer.

I heard distant footsteps pattering across the hardwood floors. “No, it’s Dad!” My dad emerged from the kitchen, wearing a sweater and jeans. “Hey babe!” His arms were wide.

I ran into his arms then he rocked us. The beard he grew from his usual stubble tickled my cheek as I hugged him. My dad was always warm and smelled like quiet confidence—the kind of cologne that was subtle, but then snuck up on you and swaddled you.

When I released him, I said, “Hey, you’re losing more weight?”

“Yup.” He patted his shrinking belly. “Tryna actually listen to my doctor.” We shared a laugh. My dad didn’t listen to anyone but my grandma and my mom.

“Glad you’re doing good.”

“Yeah, thanks babe.” His eyes enlarged, noticing my bright red suitcase. “Oh, lemme take these for you.”

“That’s okay. I got it. It’s not that heavy.”

Looking at me pointedly, he said, “You’re still my baby girl. No matter how old or strong you get.” With a proud smile, he grasped the handle and leaned down to kiss my temple before trekking up the stairs.

After my father cooked my favorite meal for dinner (baked chicken, broccoli, and dinner rolls), I asked my parents to sit down with me in the family room so we could talk.

“Hey guys,” my voice cracked at my attempt to stay calm.

“Taylor,” my mother responded. She hated when someone tip-toed around something.

My dad caressed her shoulders to ease her nerves before he leaned back, stretching his arms across the top of the couch. “Everything good at school?”

“Yeah. It’s good.” I nodded fervently, clasping my hands on my lap so they wouldn’t see them glisten with sweat.

My dad nodded.

“If everything is good, Taylor, what’s goin’ on?”

“Reina, she said everything is good—,”

“I have to tell you guys somethin’,” I blurted out. My heart sped up.

My parents’ eyes enlarged, anticipating my news. I tried to keep a stoic face as my eyes started to brim with tears. God, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.

“Baby, you’re scarin’ us.” My mom looked right into my eyes. A part of me wished they just knew so telling them wouldn’t hurt as much.

I blew out some air, clenched my teeth, and swallowed my apprehension. “I’m pregnant.”

“What?” my dad asked.

“I’m pregnant—like with a baby.”

My mom covered her mouth, obviously shocked. She slowly stood up as my dad and I watched her.

“Mom—,”

“How could you be this reckless? You’re in your junior year. This is one of the most important school years of your life.”

“I know, Mom.”

“You have an internship this spring.” She began to pace, hands planted on her waist. “A baby?”

I averted my gaze to my hands.

She trampled over her words, trying to grasp hold of the truth I just shared.

After a few silent moments, our eyes met. Hers were hard to read in the dim lamp light. Her burgundy-colored lips were pressed into a hard line as her forehead creased. “I’ll be right back.” I wanted to roll my eyes as she escaped the room . . . the air leaving with her. My heart skipped a beat, watching her suit-clad figure leave.

“Dad?” He just sat there, staring pensively at the carpet.

He hunched forward, clasping his hands together and resting his arms on his thighs. He sighed, “You know, a part of me wanted to believe that my baby girl was still a baby girl.”

I just studied him.

“My baby girl grew into a little girl, then into a young woman. . . now she’s a grown woman.” He lifted his eyes to mine. “And that is something I have to continue to remind myself: my baby girl isn’t a baby girl, anymore.” A tear escaped the corner of his eye before he quickly wiped it away. I’ve never seen my father cry before . . . and that was the permission my tears needed to trickle down my face.

“I watched that baby girl pedal her tricycle around the house. I chased that little girl to get her ready for bed,” my dad’s voice faltered. “You’re not a baby girl, anymore. And now you’re pregnant with a baby of your own.”

I dropped my head, wiping my face. “Are you mad? Upset? Sad? Disappointed?”

“Well,” he sat up, “I’m definitely shocked. Didn’t expect to hear my middle child is pregnant during a random visit home,” he chuckled.

“Dad—,”

“You know, life sometimes has different plans and you just have to adapt.” He got up and sat next to me on the couch. “I’m not mad, sweetie.” He rubbed my back and I relinquished my strength.

I just wanted my dad to hold me. I just wanted to be his baby girl again.

He kissed the top of my head as my arms held onto him. I was finally able to breathe.

“I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you.” Another kiss to the head. “I think your mother’s more disappointed. You know, when you have kids, you have a vision for their lives—of course it’s not our lives to live or anything. It’s just as parents, you see this life for your child when they’re born. This wasn’t in our vision this early on, but,” he squeezed me tighter and I reciprocated as he kissed me again, “that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Life will still be great, Taylor.”

Moments later, I took a deep breath. “It’s this football player at school.” I just felt like I had to tell him. We released each other and I sat up.

Surprised, my dad asked, “Okay. Are you guys together?”

The question made me laugh. “Not in the traditional sense.”

My dad’s face indicated his misunderstanding.

I bit my bottom lip. Ugh the awkwardness. “I uh—,”

“Yeah. No, sorry. Felt a li’l weird anyways asking my daughter about her love life.” I nervously laughed as he got up and cupped my shoulder. “Love you honey.” He kissed my forehead.

“Goodnight. Love you.” He gave a tired grin before leaving.

Minutes passed by before I mustered the courage to face my mother. I treaded carefully to the dark sunroom where she took refuge.

“Mommy?” I asked her softly.

“Yeah?” She turned in the wicker chair to face me, forcing a slight smile.

“You okay? Can I sit?”

She nodded then the faraway look in her eyes returned. She sighed, “I just don’t understand—I mean I know how you get pregnant. I’ve had three children. It’s just,” she contemplated her next words, “taking me a while to digest all of this.”

I wasn’t sure what to say or do, so I just sat there attentively.

“I was pregnant with your sister while in law school. Your dad was someone your grandparents initially didn’t approve of—but I loved him. We were so in love that we moved very fast in our relationship. . .” Was that a sexual innuendo? Ew. “Then we were pregnant with Mariah.” I started to say something, but she surprised me and grabbed my hands, forcing our eyes to meet. “I’m sorry, baby. I don’t want you to feel like—,”

“I know.” I offered a slight smile. “I’m your daughter and you had a vision for me when I was born.”

“Ya dad tell you that corny shit?” A look of amusement crossed her face.

“Yeah.” We both laughed.

“Who do you think is the guy?” My mom whispered.

“Mom,” I chastised.

“I’m just sayin’! I had multiple partners at that age so,” her arms were up in surrender, “maybe you do too. . ?”

“Well, I don’t. I’ve only had one. He’s a football player.”

“Oh, athletic.” That made me laugh. “He any good?”

“Yeah. Not NFL bound, though.”

She nodded.

“But it looks like he may have a job lined up after he graduates in May.”

With lips poked out, she nodded; she was impressed. “You all talk about . . . this, yet?”

“Yeah, before I left.”

“Good.”

“He’s in shock . . . and in denial.”

“Understandable,” she exhaled, nodding her head.

“Yeah, I guess.” Pause. “I made a doctor’s appointment for Tuesday.”

She squeezed my hand tighter. “Okay.” Silence. “Are you all together?”

“Uh, it’s more—,”

“Got it,” she said, smiling and nodding.

“I had asked him if he had anything, if he was tested. He showed me his test results and everything. We went through the precautions before we hooked up,” I desperately tried to prove to my mom that I wasn’t “fast.”

“Good. I know I raised you right.”

We tried, but we couldn’t contain our laughter.

“Mommy . . . I’m scared.”

Her face showed sympathy before pulling me in for a hug, her strong perfume invading my nose.

We embraced for a while then released each other. “I don’t know if you and,” she waited for me tell her my baby father’s name, “Nate talked about this, yet, but are you guys ke—,” I knew what she was trying to ask.

“We haven’t talked about that, yet. But, the thought of an abortion just doesn’t sit well with me. I couldn’t do that to a developing human being who didn’t ask to be here.”

“I understand.”

I smiled. “I was thinkin’ about finishin’ my degree online. I gotta talk to my internship supervisor and tell them my situation. Hopefully we can work somethin’ out and I can do it remotely,” I rambled, avoiding her eyes. “I don’t want to leave the baby.” I slowly lifted my head to gauge her reaction.

“Okay,” she nodded, “sounds like you thought it through. Sounds do-able. I support anything you want to do, baby.”

A smile gradually slid on my face. I think I have the best parents in the world.

I was waiting in line for my smoothie with Kiara at the university coffeeshop when I felt a big hand slightly pull me by my waist against their muscular body. Before I could react, I realized the hand felt familiar.

“We need to talk,” he whispered in my ear.

I turned around as fast as I could, but like the smoke from his occasional blunts, Nate was gone.

“Girl, was that Nathan Harris?” Kiara asked, snapping me out of my trance. So, he can just not answer my texts and calls all weekend and then when I come back, he can literally take my breath away? Who the fuck does he think he is?. . . Nathan fucking Harris.

“Yeah. Why you say his whole gov’ment name?” I asked, noticing her holding our drinks.

“Uh cuz that’s what the announcer be sayin’ at the games.” She hands me my mango smoothie, leaning forward to whisper, “And I ‘on’t know him like you know him to just be callin’ him Nate.”

I kissed my teeth, playfully slapping her arm as we laughed and left. “Anyways, I have to go talk to him.”

Kiara’s eyebrows knitted together, and she smiled suggestively. “Okay. That better be the only thing y’all do.”

“Aha, get out of my pants!”

She held her hands up in surrender, cackling.

“I’ll see you later?” I started for his building across campus.

“Yeah. My place. Byyyeee,” she said in a high-pitched voice.

Once I arrived at the building, I texted Nate. He let me in and escorted me to his empty apartment.

I stood in the living room, peering out of the big window at the quad below. People were tossing a frisbee. Looked like fun. But this wasn’t fun and games. This was serious—a baby was serious.

“Tay,” his voice was disoriented, as if he forgot how to talk to me.

I whipped around, venom ready on my lips. “The hell’s wrong witchu grabbin’ me like that in public?” Although, it was sexy as hell once I saw it was you.

Nate’s face wrinkled up in confusion. “Yo, fuck all dat. This ‘bout our baby,” he said, gesturing between us.

I stood speechless. He said our baby. As in him and I conceived the child that was growing inside of me. As in we’re both taking responsibility for our actions. Bubbled over with excitement, I squealed and jumped Nate into a hug, my arms wrapping around his wide receiver back and shoulders.

He reluctantly hugged me back, the tension in his body relaxing in our embrace. He must’ve been stressin’ ‘bout this baby as much as I was over the weekend.

“What? You really thought I was g’on leave you hangin’?” he chuckled after I released him.

I shrugged. “I didn’t know. You were really adamant that this wasn’t yours.”

He dropped his head. “I was scared.” Pause. “But, I like to think Imma better guy than that. . . The man my parents raised me to be.”

We both smiled.

“Yeah. What they say in Spiderman? With ‘great power, comes great responsibility’? Well in my case, it’s ‘with great dick, comes great responsibility.’”

My eyes bulged and my mouth formed an “O” shape as I shoved him. “Stoooppp!”

“I’m playin’, I’m playin’ . . . kinda.” That earned him some slaps on his arm before I sat down on one of the couches. Nate joined me when he was done laughing.

“That’s not funny, stupid.”

He shrugged. “I thought it was funny.” We laughed. Nate’s face turned serious. “So, my dad knows . . . but my mom doesn’t. But I’m preparing myself for her lecture,” he chuckled. I giggled.

I just scanned Nate’s profile as he watched some ESPN show on mute with subtitles. His skin was the color of chocolate mousse, the sun coming through the window highlighted his reddish undertones. His black hair was in waves, a style that I was glad came back.

these boys tryna rock undercuts and braids. I have a weird thing for noses; Nate had a cute nose: a button one that turned up slightly. He flexed his jaw, appearing to ponder.

“You g’on stare at me all day or what?”

I laughed then cleared my throat. “Did you ever wanna be in the NFL?”

His eyes drifted towards mine. “I mean I went this far in football with the goal of makin’ it to the pros. I wanted to get picked up by an elite school then get drafted by a pro team. But, a Division 3 school picked me up. That’s not ideal for NFL exposure, but just cuz it’s g’on be harder doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.” He dropped eye contact for a beat then met my eyes again. “Just like wit this baby . . . it’s g’on be hard, but it’s also g’on be worth it. I gotta try—we gotta try,” his voice was soft. “Our situation ain’t perfect, but it’s not a loss, it’s a win.” It’s just like an athlete to make a sports reference for every situation, but oddly that one fit very well.

I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I acted on impulse: I leaned forward, cupping Nate’s face and kissed him.

He dropped his head, chortling. “Not that I don’t mind havin’ yo lips on me, but um,” he rubbed the sides of his mouth while I laughed, “why’d you do dat?”

I shrugged, scanning his features. “Felt right. Wanted to. Your lips looked soft.”

Nate laughed. “Aye Tay . . . I wanna come to your doctor’s appointment tomorrow.” Before I could ask, he continued, “I got class tomorrow, but fuck that, I wanna see what’s goin’ on witchu.” He reached over, caressing my thigh.

That put another smile on my face as I leaned forward to kiss him again. This time, he reciprocated.

After, we continued our serious talk. I told my plan for next semester. He told me the job that he had lined up had a location here in Baltimore and that he was going to take it and will share an apartment with his best friend.

This was going to be okay. The vision wasn’t messed up, it just had to be adjusted.

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