Chapter Five: The Truth
Ben just stared at me in shock. His eyes slowly made their way back to the envelope in his hands. He flipped it over and opened it, pulling out the paper yellowed with age. He unfolded the paper and began reading.
"Ben, I want you to know that I love you more than I've ever loved anyone. You are so special to me. I just wanted to give you a better life. I found Vanessa in the Penny Saver and I knew she would have been able to give you more than I ever would have been able to. I just wanted to give you the best life I could, even if that meant that I couldn't raise you myself," I tried to explain.
"Then, Jack? He's not my dad?" Ben asked after finishing the letter.
"No. My high school boyfriend Paulie is. He's married and has three kids with his wife. Two girls and a boy. They all smell like soup and have a weird squinty-eyed expression on their faces… just like their mother. Be glad I gave birth to you and not Katrina."
Ben tried to hide his laughter, but without much success.
"Why can't you have anymore kids?" he asked. "Just me?"
"It's called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. After I had you, they left some gunk in me and it fucked up most of my reproductive organs. I didn't find out until Jack and I had been going at it for a while. We went to one of those fertility people and they told us that we wouldn't be able to have any children and that if I did get pregnant, I would never be able to carry another kid to term. Everything in there's just royally screwed up. I understand if you and Jude want to give someone else your baby… if me being the kid's biological grandmother is too weird and all."
"No… better you than some stranger raise it, I guess," Ben said. He paused. "What do I call you?" His face contorted into a look of confusion. "I mean, she's my mom… well, adoptive mom. And you're my mom, too. Just my biological mom. You didn't raise me."
"You can just call me Juno. That's just fine with me," I said. "I didn't raise you, you're right. I think you should save the term 'Mom' for the one who really did all the work." I grinned at Vanessa. "Seems she did a pretty good job, from what I can see."
"Yeah, yeah, she did," Ben said quietly. His soft voice painstakingly reminded me of Paulie.
"But if you need anything at all, don't hesitate to ask, kid," I said. "I still love you, and I haven't gone a day without thinking about you since I gave you up eighteen years ago."
"Thanks, Juno," he said.
"Well, Ben," Vanessa broke in. "I hate to break this up, but we should probably get going. We need to take Jude to her doctor's appointment."
"Well, Jack and Wanda and Jude probably have the majority of the paperwork done anyways, at least for now," I said. "Thank you SO much." I paused for a second and wrote my cell phone number on a pad of paper and ripped it off, handing it to Ben. "Here's my cell phone number. It's not the one you've already got… that's our home phone. If you ever need anything at all, just let us know, okay?"
"Alright," Ben said. "Thank you, Juno." He came over and shook my hand awkwardly and headed into the other room.
"Boys," Vanessa said, smiling that same bright smile. She shook her head. "We'll call you, okay? Let you know how the visit went… she's going in for her anatomy scan today, so it should be pretty exciting. Do you want to know the sex of the baby?"
"I don't care. Whatever Jude wants. If she wants to know, then she can find out and tell me. If she wants to keep it a surprise, that's fine, too."
Vanessa smiled kindly.
"I never thought I'd be on the other side of this… it makes me realize how hard it was for you to give him up," she said.
"Hey, no mushy stuff. I don't regret it for an instant. I did the right thing."
Jude looked back and forth between the two of us. A frown creased her brow. "Did I miss something?" she asked.
"I'll explain when we get out to the car," Ben said, taking her hand. I smiled at them.
"How sure do you think you are?" I heard myself ask. "Would you say you're 50% sure? 60% sure?"
Jude smiled. "I'd say I'm about 104% sure. I like you guys," she said.
Vanessa hurried both Ben and Jude back out to the van and Jack shut the door after them. He smiled at me.
"See," he said. "Everything is going to go just fine."
I sighed. "I hope you're right."
A few weeks passed.
Vanessa called me periodically to let me how everything was going. I talked to Jude a few times, too. She seemed like a really cool chick. I liked her.
One day in late February, I heard a knock on the door. I opened it in curiosity. It was Jude.
"Hey, Juno. Just thought I'd stop in and see what you were up to. Ben dropped me off," she said. "I hope you're not busy."
"Not at all," I said, a bit confused. "I was just about to head out to the mall to pick up some stuff for the baby. Do you want to come with me?" I asked her.
"I guess," she said. "Are you sure you want me to come?"
"Of course! Yeah! Duh," I said, grabbing her hand. I grabbed my jacket and threw it on and headed back out the front door. I unlocked the doors to the Jeep and we got in.
"We don't know if the baby's a boy or girl, so how do you know how you want to decorate the nursery?" Jude asked me suddenly.
"Well," I said, thinking. "We've decided to paint the nursery kind of a lighter green color. And we've decided that we want to do zebra stripes. So, lots of black and white zebra stripes and then green accents."
Jude's jaw dropped. "That is totally awesome," she said. "Way cool."
"I'm glad you approve," I said, grinning. "This is going to be so much fun."
Jude nodded. "Yeah."
We stopped by Ashley's Furniture Store near the mall and picked up a really nice black crib and nightstand and a matching black changing table. The salesperson helped us put it the back of the Jeep. We headed back to the house and dropped it off and then came back to the mall a couple of hours later.
"Alright," I said. "Zebra fabric. And I mean lots of it."
"What?" I asked, looking at her.
"You're a woman on a mission!" she said. "I now know where Ben gets it."
"Ben gets what?" I asked her, as we started walking to a fabric store in the mall.
"He's not like Vanessa. Vanessa is very… strict, I guess. Ben's more laidback. He takes things as they come, but he won't let you run over him, either. He's not a Nazi about it by any means, but he's just… Ben. He gets moving on his own terms, and only his own terms. I get that same kinda vibe around you."
I couldn't help but grin. "Aw, shucks," I said. "You're gonna make me get all emo now."
"Slash your wrists and black your eyes?" Jude asked, putting her hands on her belly protectively. "I don't know if I want my kid with a suicidal woman, now…" she trailed off, laughing.
"Hey, I'm not suicidal."
She looked at me.
"Well, I'm not!" I exclaimed.
"Okay," Jude said, rolling her eyes.
We found our way to this little hole-in-the-wall fabric store near the back side of the mall. It was one of my favorite places in the world, and definitely in that big old mall. Fabric was strewn everywhere. It was like trying to find something in a scavenger hunt. We started searching for zebra fabric.
After searching for a good half hour, I found some. Okay, not just some. A lot. Four whole 5x20 yard skeins of zebra-fleece goodness. I was in heaven. I cleared the store of their fleecy zebra fabric and picked up a few skeins of light green fleece on the way out.
"So are you hand-making all of the nursery stuff? The bed stuff and curtains?" Jude asked.
"Yeah," I said. "It's not like you're doing all the work. You grow the baby and I sew stuff. Sound like an even trade-off?" I asked her.
"I guess so," she said.
We headed back to the Jeep. On the way home, I dropped Jude back by her house. I couldn't help but smile to myself. What a great day.
Sorry for the long wait.
I just really don't feel like doing this story right now. I had this half done so I kind of half-heartedly finished this chapter.
Maybe it'll get me out of the slump I've been in lately.