A Novelette By Robert Swartwood

Chapter 8

So I’m waiting out on the front porch for almost ten minutes when her Corolla pulls into the driveway. I can see her pretty, smiling face behind the wheel. Even though she’s wearing sunglasses, I know she’s staring right at me. I want to return the smile, but I only stare back.

Somewhere in the house, Ty is packing up what we need. I told him about Amanda coming over, but he said nothing, only kept on packing the gasoline and clippers. He even managed to find our old Super Soakers, and after a moment’s thought I realized what they were for. Not water, of course, but gas.

Now here I am, and what am I going to say? I’ve been with Amanda for almost two years, and yes, I do tell her everything, but there’s always a limit to how much. Besides, I don’t even know where to begin.

As she gets out of the car I notice she’s wearing these tight gray sweatpants, the one that has LOVE stitched on the rear, and the idea of telling her to leave is the last thing on my mind. She’s wearing a light jacket too, even though it’s warm out, and it makes me wonder if she’s trying to hide her belly.

She walks toward me, and as she does, I think about the baby growing inside her. We only found out two months ago she was pregnant. We’re both seniors, we’ve both got college ahead of us, so we discussed our options. I was actually more willing to raise the child than Amanda, but in the end we decided abortion was the best plan. Well, she decided.

And now here she is.

Less than ten feet away from me.

Smiling.

“Josh,” she says, coming up the steps. “I know I said last night I was coming over, but I figured I’d let you sleep in. That’s why I called.” She opens her arms and hugs me tight, kisses me on the lips—I can taste her familiar cherry gloss. She only does this for maybe a second or two before she realizes I’m not kissing her back. “What’s wrong?”

“You have to leave.”

“Bullshit,” she says, then smiles again. “Josh, you don’t understand. I changed my mind. I don’t want to—”

“I’m sorry,” I say, and it’s the hardest thing in the world, because I know exactly what her smile is about, and it literally crushes my heart to push her away like this. “But you have to leave.”

“Why? I don’t under—”

I simply shake my head and turn around and walk inside. I ignore her as she calls out, telling me to wait, to just listen.

I shut the door.

Lock it.

Ty’s in the living room holding two duffel bags that look much too heavy for his small arms. But I see the determination on his face, and I realize that he’s now stronger than I ever will be. This entire thing has changed him, has allowed him to mature in a matter of hours.

And the worst part is we haven’t even started yet.

He’s watching me, his eyes dark and sad, and he asks one question: “Ready?”

I don’t hesitate, I just nod, and we’re on our way.

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