Marina had liked April up until she had started to show. The High School girl who rode the train across a busy Chicago to sit with the McIntyres’ boys for a few hours seemed to epitomize Marina’s ideals of the soft-but-strong woman. April found it a little disgusting but she couldn’t really explain why until Marina confronted her about the baby bump.
“So, what’s going on with this baby?” Marina asked as she drove her Mercedes to the train stop.
“Oh, I’m uh – I’m keeping it,” April stammered. It had been obvious for weeks but this was the first time that Marina had mentioned it to her.
“Finley told me that he thinks that you’ve been eating too many Spaghetti-O’s.” Marina said.
April smiled at that. “Oh, Finny.”
“Frankly, I was surprised that he even knew what Spaghetti-O’s were!” Marina continued, condescendingly.
“Weird! Probably from TV commercials,” April blushed. She had fed the boys Spaghetti-O’s once but it was a desperate situation while they were grocery shopping with Bill and Finley got a sudden mad hunger. She panicked and Bill didn’t appear to mind her just picking up a fast lunch – so that they could fuck, sooner.
“Weird,” April said once more.
As Marina put the gear-shift into Park, April scrambled to get out of the car.
“Don’t forget to let me pay you,” Marina said.
“Oh, right!” April said, absent-mindedly. Money. Right. Ever since she had Bill’s AmEx card, it was an afterthought.
Marina didn’t reach for her wallet. Instead, she turned the car off and power-locked the doors. April tried to pretend that Marina was just worried about the element of people loading and unloading from the train. But the sound was unnerving with the panicked sensation of being trapped.
“I’m not sure that you can park here,” April mumbled, nervously.
“Who is the father?” Marina asked.
April’s nervous heart stopped mid-beat: “W-what?”
“Just tell me,” Marina said.
“His name is Eric,” April whispered, sticking to her story. She had rehearsed this catastrophic moment in the mirror a hundred times – how she had gotten too crazy at prom and her date had forgotten to bring a condom and they still wanted to be friends but he respected her wishes to not be tied down, etc.
Instead, she just repeated: “Eric. His name is Eric.”
“Are you going to marry him?” Marina asked.
April shyly shook her head.
Marina tried, half-heartedly, to hide her scowl. She reached into her Dolce and Gabana handbag and produced $300 in cash.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” April said. “Bill – I mean…”
Marina froze at the mention of her husband’s first name. The air was uncomfortably still for a long moment.
“I mean Mr. Mcintyre…” April stammered.
“Take it,” Marina said in a tone that was quiet-yet-firm.
“But he already…”
“This isn’t your payment for sitting,” Marina said. “Consider it a severance.”
In spite of April’s best efforts, tears pricked at her eyes, “You don’t want me – “
“It’s confusing my boys,” Marina said, bitterly. “You’re going to be a mother, soon. Maybe then you will understand. Please take the money.”
April’s world went blurry and she turned away.
“I just love those little boys,” April whispered.
Marina’s face was cold and unfeeling as she answered: “Then you know why it has to be this way.”
April cried openly on the train, burying her sobs in her curled-up knees as best she could. Her head snapped up suddenly when she sensed someone drawing close to her. She saw that it was a dear, kind-eyed black woman with the face of an angel, opening her flappy-winged arms and her heart to comfort April.
April cried into the stranger’s shoulder the rest of the train ride. The woman’s large arms enveloped her and rocked her gently as she purred “there, now, Child…there now….”
Bill had beaten the train to April’s last stop, leaning against his Escalade and wearing only his pajamas and bedroom slippers covered up by a handsome cashmere overcoat.
April didn’t know whether to hit him or kiss him. On her way past Jimmy, the veteran who solicited at her stop, she put $300 cash into his hat.
“Shit!” Jimmy declared as he spirited the money away to safe-keeping. “Oh, shit!” He declared again but this time with joy. “THANK YOU, Mama!”
Bill held her, wrapped up in his overcoat and pressing her against his chest, which still smelled of his cologne.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered softly in her ear.
“What am I going to do?” she asked.
“We will work it out,” he promised. But hey both knew it was a lie.
“Don’t take me home,” April said as she tipped her teary eyes up to him. “Take me away from here. Far away from here where that awful woman can’t get to me.”
He ran his strong and masculine fingers through her loosened blonde locks and said “How I wish that I could, my darling.”
He was right. They had to keep up appearances or everything would become even worse.
“Is she right?” April asked. “Am I a bad influence on my boys?”
“No,” he said, resolutely.
But she wasn’t convinced. She had never been so low.