"Yeah. My daughter. Katie."
"Oh. I need to sit down."
"I need some air."
"Sit outside," he offered, leading her out the front door and sitting on the steps with her, Katie on his lap. Gabriella stared as Katie cooed and Troy rubbed her back. Silence.
"So. You have a baby."
"I do." More silence.
"I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to react to this," she admitted, not able to tear her eyes away from the small child.
"Do you want to hold her?" Troy asked hesitantly.
"Okay," she said, looking into Troy's eyes. Troy scooted closer to Gabi, so close that their legs were touching, and placed the baby on her lap. Katie cried in protest and Troy kept her on his lap instead, shrugging an apology. "Umm… I'm not really sure where to start. Usually this is the kind of secret a girl keeps from a boy. Not the other way around."
"Well what do you want to know?"
"Who's the mother?" She asked, looking at the baby's face. Troy inwardly groaned. He knew the question was coming but he was hoping he could avoid it.
"Her name was Kaitlin."
"She died the night Katie was born," Troy said quietly, looking into Gabriella's eyes and pleading for her to understand why he was so hard to read.
"Oh, Troy," she said, suddenly feeling like everything was falling into place. "I'm so sorry. That must have been awful."
"Thanks," he nodded. "It was." Silence again. "You know when I met you, I started to feel really guilty all the time. I never even looked at another girl after Kaitlin, and all the sudden there you were, and I couldn't get my mind off of you."
"Did you love her?"
"You know the weird thing? I thought I did. I really thought I did. But looking back… I mean… we were fifteen. We were young and we were stupid," Troy sighed and looked up into Gabriella's eyes. "I've never told anyone that."
"Gabriella… if we're going to do this… you have to understand. Katie comes first with me. Always. No matter what, under any and all circumstances."
"As she should."
"And I don't want to be that dad who just brings home random girls who never stick around long enough to bother learning Katie's middle name. So… if we're gonna do this… I need to know that you're in this for real. That this isn't just some fling to you. Because…" Troy was interrupted when Katie began crying. Instinctively, Troy held the child closer and stood up. "Life calls. She's tired," he explained. "She's usually in bed by now. I should go put her down. Do you want to wait, or…?"
"I think I'll go home. I'll talk to you later, Troy." Troy nodded understandingly.
"Well?" Mrs. Bolton asked as Troy and Katie entered the kitchen.
"I don't know," he admitted before taking Katie upstairs to tuck her in.
"Yes, Mommy?" Gabriella sighed. She wiped her tears as she entered her kitchen to talk to her mother, who truthfully she was hoping to avoid.
"What's wrong, Honey?"
"I was just at Troy's…" Gabriella began.
"Did he say something to upset you?"
"No. I just… I overheard him and Chad talking today. And they kept talking about this girl named Katie. And how the reason Troy wasn't pursuing me was because of her…"
"No, mom you don't understand. I met Katie," Gabriella began to cry again.
"Katie is his daughter, Mom."
"So she just left?" Mrs. Bolton asked quietly, rubbing her son's back as she listened to him relay what had just happened downstairs.
"Yeah. I really liked her, Mama," Troy sighed, leaning into his Mother's arms like he used to when he was little, and how he still did every once and a while when life became too much.
"I know, Baby. Give her time… this was quite a shock for her, I'm sure."
"I think I'm gonna call her. I feel kind of bad that I had to stop the conversation midway."
"So you just left?" Mrs. Montez asked, making sure she got the story straight.
"Yeah. What am I supposed to do Mommy? I really liked him," the young girl cried.
"Honey, this is not going to be an easy decision. And Troy was right when he told you that you had to be absolutely sure that this is what you want."
"How am I supposed to know if I'm ready for that?"
"I'm too young to be a mother to someone else's baby," she rationalized.
"I don't think Troy expects or wants you to Mother his child. He just wants you to understand that every decision he makes, he makes with Katie in mind. He can't go out all night like a normal teenager. He has to be able to be reached by his mother at a moments notice. And if he needs to leave you to go take care of his child, you have to be willing to accept that."
"You have to decide whether this boy is worth it," Mrs. Montez explained, rubbing her daughter's back soothingly. Just then, the phone rang.
"Hello?" Mrs. Montez said into the phone. "Just a minute, Troy. She's right here." Gabriella looked up at her mother, surprised that Troy was calling.
"Hello?" Gabriella said into the phone, trying to disguise the fact that she had been crying.
"Hey. I just wanted to apologize before… I shouldn't have brought Katie down that late," Troy explained.
"That's the kind of stuff I was telling you about, though."
"What do you mean?"
"It's not like I wanted to stop the conversation where we did. I had to."
"Gabriella, I'm really sorry. I… I feel like… like I just should have told you from the start. I just didn't want to scare you off."
"Troy, you didn't scare me off. I just… I don't know. I'm seventeen. I don't know if I can handle being in that serious of a relationship so fast. I really like you, Troy."
"I really like you, too. And Gabriella… I understand. Don't feel guilty about it or anything. I put you in a really sucky position."
"I'm sorry, Troy. I just need to think about it," Gabriella sighed, hanging up the phone. Troy sighed on the other end, hanging up with her. About twenty seconds passed before his phone began to ring.
"Hello?" Troy said into the phone.
"What's Katie's middle name?" Troy smiled.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Troy."
"Well?" Ms. Montez asked, walking into the kitchen as her daughter hung up the phone.
"I decided he was worth it."