They know something is odd. My mother can smell it like a bloodhound smells tracks. She sneaks incendiary glances in my direction from the make-up mirror on her sun visor. I imagine that my father is just taking her word for it, though not believing that things might be as bad as she is making them out to be. So here I sit, hunched in the back of the car, knees pressing into the back of my father’s seat like I’ve done on every other family trip since the beginning of memorable time, only this time I’m trying desperately to ignore the roller coaster in my stomach.
“When will Nathan make it down?” My mother is quizzing me from the mirror again.
“He said sometime tomorrow.” I reply, and then, “What!”
“What do you mean, what?” she asks incredulously.
“You keep staring at me from the mirror is what.” I shoot back.
“Now, now,” my father breaks in with an ultimatum, “who’s ready to stop for breakfast?”
“No, why do you keep looking at me?” I ask her again, ignoring the sigh coming from the driver seat.
“Are you feeling alright?” she says.
“Fine, just hungry.” I reply, a tight line slashed across the pale skin where my lips usually rest. I’m trying boldly to keep it together until we reach a place to stop.
“You shouldn’t let your blood sugar get too low. You know I used to have blood sugar problems. You need to eat something when you get up in the morning…orange juice, crackers, something.” My mother seems temporarily satisfied. She continues, “We’ll stop up here. There’s a diner at the next exit.”
My stomach flops and I take a deep breath. “Well, hurry. I feel sick because I haven’t eaten anything.”
She shoots me a look again, but just then my father pulls off the highway and into the parking lot of a greasy spoon.
“Here we are,” he sings. I loathe his happy oblivion. If he only knew he wouldn’t be so fucking happy. And my mother! I’m not going to be able to stand this for an entire week with her looking worried and my father in a state of denial.
“Great.” I hop out of the car and rush ahead to the restaurant. The smell of pork fat and eggs mingled with dry toast explodes as I swing open the door. This is too much! Too many scents waft in my direction and my stomach lurches into a double back handspring. I sprint for the bathroom as my parents reach the door.
I sit in the stall, mulling over my predicament. Nathan and I decided that we would tell my parents about the pregnancy together once the vacation neared its end. Now I’m not sure how we can do that. I can still hide my growing belly below baggy shirts and sweats, but I can’t conceal the morning sickness claiming bouts of indigestion and bad seafood. Not for an entire week.
As I am pondering this I hear the door open and smell a mixture of cigarette smoke and White Diamonds.
“Honey, are you alright?” My mother calls into the room.
“Yes, fine,” I fake exasperation.
“Well, you’ve been gone a while and we were wondering what you’d like to drink.” Then, after a moment and with more severity, “I sure hope your attitude changes this week. I know going on a vacation with your parents is not the most exciting thing for someone your age, but you could act a little bit more mature. We tried to make it nicer for you by inviting Nathan, and I sure hope he acts a little better than you have so far on this trip.”
She thinks I’m acting like a brat. For god’s sake, even without the extenuating circumstances, isn’t a person allowed to have a bad day without being labeled spoiled and getting a lecture about how to act at the age of twenty? I soften though, thinking about how short I’ve been with my parents since I returned from school. It’s been nearly impossible to keep my secret from them, and especially from my mother since we are very close.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I’m just tired and hungry. You know how I get.”
“Well, eat something.” She says, but softer, “what do you want to drink, so I can tell the waitress?”
“Milk would be good.” I say without thinking.
“Milk? Since when do you drink milk?” My mother is instantly suspicious again. I don’t think I’ve ordered milk since I was in diapers.
“Oh, I just thought it would be good to start drinking more of it, you know, for the calcium.” I will my voice to sound steady and nonchalant.
“Hmm.” She murmurs. I hear her crumple a paper towel and open the door to leave.
(To Be Continued)