Josephine Louise Miller wrote her name over and over across the page. Partly because she loved the weight and feel of the pen she was using, partly because she wanted to practice writing her name as it would be by the end of the week.
“Josie, are you up there?”
“Yeah, Mom. I’m just hanging out.” Josie hurried to hide the paper she’d written on. It would be awful if her mother saw it. Josie hadn’t told her mother anything about Ryan Miller and their plans. If her mother did know, she would put an end to everything. Josie knew her mom would never approve of Ryan.
Hearing her mother’s steps coming up the stairs, Josie took in a big breath of air. Her mother was not in the best of moods. In fact, Rebecca Styles hadn’t been in a good mood for over two years. Ever since Josie’s dad packed his bags and moved out, Rebecca blamed the entire world for the horrible hand she’d been dealt.
“Josephine, this room is a mess. What have you been doing up here all afternoon? I thought you were going to get this place cleaned up.”
“I know, Mom. I, uh, took a nap. And then I just started to daydream. I’m pretty happy right now, you know?”
“Happy? What on earth is there to be happy about?”
“To be perfectly honest with you, Mom, I’m seeing Ryan Miller, and he makes me very happy.”
“Ryan Miller? You mean your father’s whore’s son? That Ryan Miller?”
Josie felt her ire rising to the top like clotted crème. She knew her mother would react this way. So, why did she reveal the secret?
“Mom. I’m a grown woman. I’m capable of making my own decisions.”
“Yes. Yes, you’re a grown woman, and you can choose your life, but with all the men in the world, did you have to choose someone who would make one more tie to that woman? Isn’t it bad enough that she took my husband, and now she’ll take you too?”
“What do you mean? She’s not taking me.”
“Yes, she is. She’ll get her hooks in you. First, it will be Sunday dinners over there instead of with me, and then it will be vacations like the one they took last month. They’ll wine and dine you and . . .what’s his name?”
“Ryan. His name is Ryan, Mom.”
“Yes, Ryan. Your father and that woman will make sure you want to spend all your time with them. They’ll take you away, I know they will.”
“Mom. No one’s taking anyone from anybody. I’m dating Ryan. I’m not spending time with his mother. I barely speak to Dad. I’m with you on Sundays for dinner, and I’m not going anywhere.”
Rebecca broke out in loud sobs. Her shoulders were shaking, and she covered her face with her hands.
“Mom. Seriously?” Josie said as she got off the bed. Putting her arm over her mother’s shoulders, Josie continued, “There is something to be happy about. And if I tell you, I want you to be happy for me.”
Rebecca sighed. Josie watched her mother begin to deflate from the inside out. It was always this way when Josie tried to cheer her up in some small way.
“Josie, you know I want you to be happy. But no matter what happens from now on, I won’t be happy.”
“Mother. You can’t believe that. I mean, won’t you even be happy when I make you a grandmother?”
Rebecca’s eyes opened wide. “Of course, I will. But that day is so far away. You’re only twenty-three, and you should wait at least five or six years before you have children. And of course, you’d need to be married first.”
Silence filled the room on Rebecca’s words. Without thinking, Rebecca continued to pontificate on the same subject. “When you’re ready, children can be a wonderful thing. But if a woman has children too soon, she never defines herself as a person. She’s just a mother and a wife. And when a marriage ends and the children grow up, where does that leave her?”
Josie watched her mother’s face. Two tears left twin rivers on the older woman’s cheeks. She was fiddling around with the items on Josie’s dresser. Suddenly her hands stopped, and she looked up and found Josie in the reflection of the mirror.
Rebecca’s face was frozen, and it was then that Josie remembered she’d left the small diamond Ryan gave her last night on her dresser. Josie braced herself for the barrage of insults she knew her mother would throw at her.
But she was wrong.
“Is this…is this an engagement ring, Josie?”
Before Josie could answer, Rebecca pushed on. “Oh. So, that’s what all this talk about grandchildren was, wasn’t it? You’re pregnant, and you’re getting married. Right?”
Josie opened her mouth and began to tell her mother about eloping with Ryan, but she stopped short when she saw Rebecca’s face.
Ryan and Josie had barely talked about children. Josie always thought she wouldn’t start her family until after she established herself at work.
But now, for the first time in years, Rebecca’s mouth turned up at the corners. She hugged herself and rushed towards Josie. “Oh, how wonderful. A baby. A baby’s laughter will fill this house.”
Stunned into silence, Josie felt her face freeze in a forced smile. Slowly, she nodded her head.
Rebecca made it across the room and grabbed Josie hard and tight.
And then she quickly released her. “Oh, no. I didn’t hurt you, did I? I mean, well, how far along are you?”
Josie didn’t know what to do. She had absolutely no idea of what to say. How could she take away the only happiness her mother felt in years? But how could she tell such a big lie?
“I’m thrilled you’re happy for me, Mom. I was afraid to tell you. But now that I know that you want to be a grandmother, I’m glad I can share this with you.”
In the dark recesses of her mind, Josie wondered how she could convince Ryan that they needed to get pregnant right away. Or maybe she would have to fake losing the imaginary child. No matter what, she wanted to keep that smile on her mother’s face for as long as she could.
Rebecca took another look at Josie. “So, what do you want? A little boy, or a little girl?”
Josie forced a smile, “I just want a healthy baby.”