Connie sat up abruptly when she heard a knock on her window. She looked to the right and screamed when she saw a man in the window, staring straight at her.
"Connie, it's just me!" Bobby called through the window. Connie stopped screaming and looked closer at the man and saw that it was in fact, Bobby.
"Bobby!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here?" Sometimes when Connie's better judgment left her, she called Bobby if Chane was away for work so they could "spend time together." Chane refused to have sex with Connie when she was pregnant, but Bobby didn't mind, even though it freaked them both out in the beginning. Sure, Connie was upset that she had kept herself from remaining "true" to Chane, but Bobby was great for relieving stress. She walked over to the window and opened it, then stood back as she let Bobby enter the living room.
"I wanted to see if you had your baby."
"So you snuck over to my house? That's really creepy, Bobby."
"I also figured Chane would be out, so why not drop by?" Bobby paused. "He's not here, right?"
"Yeah, he's on another business trip."
"Good," Bobby sighed. He looked down at Connie's bulging stomach that had just bumped into his side. Amazed, he placed his hand gingerly on it. "Wow," he breathed. "So, are you sure about this?"
"Yes Bobby, I'm pretty sure it's yours."
"Completely, actually. I had a prenatal paternity test done, and it said you were the father. Are you happy now?" Connie was beginning to feel the stress creeping up on her again.
"Sorry for bringing it up again," Bobby apologized. He was excited about the baby, but he was just as stressed out as she was. He felt guilty for getting Connie pregnant and he was also very anxious about the baby. How was he supposed to connect to this baby? He didn't want it to live a lie. Every time he thought about the baby he would be reminded of Joseph, which only made him cringe. He didn't want something like that to happen to his kid. He wanted stability. To make matters worse, Chane was no Dale Gribble. Sure, the baby wouldn't be dark or anything, but Bobby knew that it was still easy to tell if a baby was only half Asian. If Chane found out would he abandon Connie and the baby? And if he did, that didn't mean that Connie would come to Bobby for support. Bobby was well aware of the fact that Connie was using him as an escape from her married life. She hadn't had feelings for him since middle school, and even if she did, she never expressed them. Sometimes it hurt to know, but at least she was willing to talk to him in a casual manner instead of pushing him out of windows when they were finished with their business. Bobby was afraid that once the baby was born, he would be completely shut out of Connie and the baby's life.
"I need a smoke," Bobby muttered. He shuffled over to the living room window and lit his cigarette. "My dad would kill me if he found out I started smoking again."
"My dad would kill himself if he knew this baby isn't Chane's. Connie sat herself back on the couch and sighed heavily. "Anyway, did you want to watch TMZ or something? I think they're talking about you tonight."
Connie held her breath. She was getting lightheaded, but she refused to open her mouth. Maybe it was for the better. Maybe she would die. That way, she wouldn't have to deal with the stress. She sat on the edge of her bathtub, looking down at her phone, waiting for the timer to hit all zeros. Before she knew it, the alarm on her timer sounded. Connie finally allowed herself to inhale. She rose hesitantly to her feet and walked towards the bathroom counter. She only had to look for a few seconds. "It's positive," she breathed. She wanted to be happy. She really did want to, but at that moment, all she could feel was fear. She had slept with Chane a week after she had slept with Bobby. How could she have been so stupid, so reckless? She didn't have time to think about the mistakes she had made. She had to tell Chane she was pregnant before she was too far along; it would seem suspicious. Connie threw away her pregnancy test, washed her hands, and then walked over to Chane's home office.
"Chane?" She said quietly. He was bent over a pile of papers.
"What is it Connie?" Chane asked, not harshly, but uninterested.
"I'm pregnant." Connie knew that Chane would lose interest if she didn't get to the point quickly. She expected Chane to smile, but his face stiffened. Connie had been smiling before, but by now her face was almost as stern as Chane's.
"You're pregnant?" Chane threw down the pen he had been holding. "Connie, I just got this promotion. We can't afford a baby right now!"
Connie was already getting defensive. "Well, it was your idea to move us to this expensive neighborhood and it was your idea to put us in a two-story when we're the only ones living here, Chane!" Connie felt so vindictive. She was basically yelling at Chane for not being excited about a child that may or may not have been his. But if it was, she needed to know that he would be looking forward to having the baby.
"I moved us into this neighborhood to let my coworkers know I'm able to work hard enough to afford places like this, Connie. And I bought a two-story for the family that we were going to have eventually, not now!"
"Can't you just let me get a job?" Connie wailed. "I didn't suffer through school so that I could sit around at home all day."
"We can talk about this later," Chane grumbled. "I have work to do...for two!" Connie threw her hands in the air and retreated to her bedroom.
"Kahn Junior, I'm so proud!" Khan exclaimed, ogling at his daughter's invisible pregnant belly. Connie was only two months along, so there was nothing to see. "Another Souphanousinphone," Kahn stopped mid-sentence and glanced back Ted Wassonasong, who had raised a single eyebrow. "er, Wassonasong to carry on- our legacy!" Connie couldn't help but feel bad. If she had been born a boy, her father wouldn't have to worry about his last name being overshadowed. "I hope it's a boy!" Kahn added eagerly. The Wassonasongs nodded in agreement.
"Yes, a boy would be just super!" Ted agreed. "Maybe two, if my son works hard enough to afford two." Connie had heard Chane grumbling in his office about how he couldn't wait until he received his inheritance. Even though the Wassonasongs were more privileged than the Souphanousinphones, they encouraged Chane to live independent of their money, which was disheartening to Kahn and Minh.
Connie excused herself from her seat in the living room and walked into the kitchen to make everyone some coffee. She paused in front of the sink for a moment, staring deep into the drain. Looking into the increasingly darkening hole just reminded Connie of her future. She couldn't help but let her eyes well up as she reached for the coffee brewer.
"Kahn Junior!" Minh joined her daughter in the kitchen. "Don't forget, Ted Wassonasong likes his coffee black- what's wrong?"
Connie quickly wiped her eyes, and then gave her mom a small smile. "Hormones," she lied.
"Oh," Minh said, smiling. "I know I was a wreck when I was pregnant with you! Don't worry, pregnancy is not that hard Kahn Junior."
"Mom, I'm an adult now- a grown woman. Do you think you and dad could call me Connie?"
Minh eyed her daughter suspiciously. "You're pregnant. The last thing you need is change. This pregnancy won't be any easier if you're going to act out."
"I'm not trying to act out mom," Connie stated, pleading for her mom to understand. "I just want respect. You and dad worked hard for me to get a good education, but Chane won't even let me get a job! I have so much talent and it's being wasted!"
"...Kahn Junior," Connie squirmed. Her mom still refused to call her Connie. Minh placed a hand on her daughter's shoulder. "You married a successful man, you're part of a well-known family, and you're about to bring a beautiful child into the world. This is all you need."
"You're right mom," Connie agreed, secretly wishing she could jump out of her skin and run away. "This is all I need. How does Mrs. Wassonasong take her coffee?"
Minh smiled at her daughter. "I'll check."
"It's a girl?" Connie asked with disbelief. A girl. She watched as Kahn and Ted's faces fell. Mrs. Wassonasong quietly shook her head in the corner while Minh did her best to comfort her.
The ultrasound technician looked around the room confusedly. "You must've put a lot of hope on having a boy. Listen, I know in China it might be okay for you to abandon your baby girls on hills or whatever you people do, but this is America. Please don't break our laws." She gave everyone a curt smile and left the room momentarily.
"We're Laotian!" Connie called after the woman.
"The nerve of that woman," Kahn spat. He was ready to follow her and give her a piece of his mind, but Ted Wassonasong held up his hands.
"Do not worry Kahn," he said. "I'll have a lawyer look over this later. Right now I think I should call my son and tell him the news." Chane was off on another business trip, so Connie's parents and her in-laws had joined her for her ultrasound instead. The ultrasound technician came back into the room and handed Connie a tissue. Connie wiped the ultrasound gel off of her stomach, refusing to look at the room of disappointed faces. She couldn't even have the right type of baby! Everyone cleared from the room as Connie got up to get dressed.
"Bobby?" Connie was sitting in her living room, trying to call Bobby. Minh had offered to stay the night to comfort her daughter about the "bad news," but Connie told her that there was no need, and that Chane would be home within the day. Kahn, Minh, and the Wassonasongs had already taken their flight home. "Bobby, it's Connie."
"Connie! How are you?" Bobby asked excitedly. "I would come over, but I'm not coming to your area for several months. I'm in California right now."
"That's not why I called Bobby. Are you about to do a show right now?" Connie asked, already becoming exasperated with the situation, and already regretting calling Bobby.
"No, not for another two days. What's wrong?"
"I'm pregnant," Connie said abruptly. She waited for Bobby to say something, but there was no response from the other end of the phone line. "I don't know if it's yours- yet. I just wanted to let you know."
"Uh, d-do, you need any help or anything?" Bobby asked, his voice sounding a bit shaky.
"No, Bobby. I'm married and my husband has a good job. This baby's probably not even yours."
"How far along are you anyway?"
"Five months?" Bobby asked in disbelief. "You waited five months to tell me about this?"
"You're lucky I'm even calling you at all, Bobby Hill!" Connie snapped. She was about to tell Bobby that she didn't want him to come over when he was on tour in her state when she heard the door open. Chane walked through the door looking surprisingly happy. "Crap!" Connie said under her breath. She quickly hung up on Bobby and greeted her husband. "Hey Chane, I have dinner ready. I'm sorry you had to fly all the way to Houston for the weekend-" Chane quickly approached his wife and held her in a tight hug. The two stood in silence, Connie waiting for Chane to say something. Chane finally let go and kissed his wife.
"Connie, I've got a huge bonus coming in! If things work the way I think they will, we'd be able to afford twins!"
"Really?" Connie asked, laughing nervously.
"Yes, really." Chane placed his hands on Connie's shoulders and looked her square in the eyes. "Connie, we're going to be just fine.
The sun hung low in the Arlen sky. Connie breathed in the humid Texas air as she approached her parents' house. Arlen hadn't changed that much since Connie was a kid. There was a bit of a shift in the population: several homeless people now occupied public areas. Connie distinctly remembered one man sitting next to an abandoned building where Sugarfoot's used to be. After Mr. Strickland died of a much anticipated heart attack, the business was never the same and eventually went bankrupt. Connie had been shopping while the rest of the family, Chane included, helped to prepare her parents' house for a baby shower that was being held for Connie. During her walk she stopped by the abandoned building. Looking into its empty windows Connie thought of all the people who used to crowd into the restaurant on Saturday nights. Kahn and Mr. Wassonasong had visited once to impress some businessmen from New York with its "Texas charm," but it ended in embarrassment, and Kahn never took his family back again. When Connie saw the man, sitting with his knees tucked under his chin and his head downward, she stepped back in surprise. He was obviously homeless: his long black hair reached down to his back and was hopelessly tangled. Feeling a bit generous, possibly because she was trying to atone for her infidelity, Connie left a five dollar bill on top of the presumably slumbering man's tattered boots and quickly skittered away. She looked back for just a second and saw a pair of dark brown eyes staring straight at her. Connie quickly turned back around and headed back to her parents' house, the feeling of the eyes' presence lingering until she finally reached Rainy Street.
Connie looked to the left and saw the alley looking lonely and abandoned. Obviously Mr. Gribble was too sick to stand outside, or maybe just too bitter. Connie remembered too well what had happened the night Mr. Gribble found out Nancy had cheated on him. She shuddered slightly and entered her childhood home. Minh and Kahn were throwing Connie a baby shower. The only attending members were the Wassonasongs and the Connie's parents. Connie had asked beforehand if she was allowed to invite friends to the party, but the Wassonasongs insisted that it be a "private" affair.
Connie had received the standard baby gifts: bottle, clothes, toys, spoons, hats, an entire crib from the Wassonasongs, and much more. All the gifts were gender-neutral, as if the family didn't want to acknowledge that the baby was a girl. After the shower, the Wassonasongs headed back to their home. Connie and Chane had rented a hotel for their stay in Arlen, but Connie, with the permission of her parents, decided that she wanted to stay the night in her old room for the night. She and Chane would be leaving in two days, and she just wanted to be home, even if it wasn't the same anymore. After Chane and the Wassonasongs left and Kahn and Minh had gone to bed, Connie just stood in the alley, looking up and down the lonely street, hoping for some sign of life. She shuddered when she saw Mr. Dauterive's rotting house, condemned and untouched since the day he died. No one had thought of his absence in the community as unusual until he'd missed one of Mr. Hill's barbeque parties. He was found three days after his death. He'd choked on a chicken wing while watching TV alone in his house. Connie shook the dark thoughts out of her head and tried to look for constellations. She was just about to find Andromeda when she heard someone approaching her.
Connie stiffened when she saw the figure of the man she had seen earlier that day at Sugarfoot's. His matted hair stayed firmly by his sides as he made his way to Connie, too frozen in fear to react to the danger that she was bound to face. The man's deep brown eyes were almost hypnotizing, but further instilled fear into Connie when she realized they were bloodshot. His sun-kissed skin seemed all too familiar to her...
"Joseph?" Connie breathed quietly, almost wishing her question hadn't been heard. The man stopped mid-walk. A low, grisly, disturbing laugh came from seemingly deep inside the bowels of the very man. Connie could feel her knees begin to shake.
"Connie Souphanousinphone," the man- Joseph replied, his worlds slurring as he stumbled over Connie's maiden name.
"Joseph! Connie said, shocked. "W-what happened to you?"
"What happened to you?" Joseph asked in a child-like manner, his drunken personality taking over all other sense of judgment. "You're knocked up and living with your parents!" Joseph laughed so loudly it shook Connie to her very core. What a deep voice. "The great Connie Souphanousinphone is now officially a hillbilly." Using her father's words against her. Clever.
"Actually, Joseph, it's Connie Wassonasong now," Connie said quite smugly, her courage reinforced by her desire to save face. It was immediately destroyed when she saw a bitter scowl engrave itself on Joseph's face. He stepped even closer to her, he a good two feet taller than her, his shadow completely covering Connie.
"Well isn't that just fuckin' wonderful?" Joseph said sarcastically. "I guess everything always works out for the little Laotian girl down the street." Where was all this bitterness coming from? "Everything works out for everyone but the neighborhood bastard. Everyone knew, and they kept it to themselves. Dale might've been okay with it, but he still treated my mom like shit, and I couldn't live with them when she decided to stay with him." Joseph paused for a second and looked bitterly at the Gribble household. "I thought once I reached college things would be okay. I was playing football for a great college and I could've become something even greater."
"What stopped you?" Connie asked meekly, her voice shaking. For some reason Joseph vaguely reminded her of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. That would supposedly make her Catherine: dying, pregnant and in a relationship based on convenience. Only she wasn't really dying. Or in love with Joseph.
"Kate," Joseph spat, his tone even more acrid than before.
"Bill was dating that woman, Charlene, the one with the kids... most importantly the daughter…Kate."
"What about her?"
Joseph looked angrily at the ground, almost too ashamed to speak. "When I was a freshman in college, we met up at some bar or something and started to catch up. I guess we both got drunk and..." Joseph turned away from Connie, seeming to look into an area so distant that only he could see it using some sort of force. "She got pregnant. At first, I freaked out, but then I was okay with it. We decided to keep the baby and still saw each other, but to me something always felt...wrong. Even still, I told her about what had happened with me and- Dale- and she was really sympathetic. Then she asked me who my father was. That changed everything."
"Why?" Connie asked, her curiosity overflowing.
"She's my sister- my half-sister. Her mom told her that John Redcorn was her dad when she turned 18 and she eventually got over the shock. When I told her the truth about my- John Redcorn, she screamed. She screamed and screamed and screamed. She started to cry and told me why. The next day she got an abortion. We haven't talked to each other since then. I'm a bastard and my kid was going to be some fuckin' inbred freak! Everything I do ends in failure...my whole life is worthless..." Joseph moaned drunkenly. "Worthless..."
"Joseph..." Connie's eyes were beginning to fill with tears. "It's not your fault. You-"
Joseph turned rather abruptly, leaning downward so that he and Connie were at eye-level. The smell of straight vodka surrounded Connie, nauseating her.
"Connie..." he whispered maliciously, "mistakes need to be taken care of." He placed a heavy hand on Connie's stomach and stared at her straight in the eyes, never breaking contact for a second. "There's no room in this world for bastards." A wave of fear spread through Connie so fast that she had to keep herself from falling over. Did he know? Connie stood, stunned. Joseph began to walk away, swaying from his drunken stupor. Connie watched him walk up the street and disappear, too shocked to ask any more questions. She immediately ran into her house, locked the door, and headed straight to her room. Connie thought she'd be able to sleep off the worry, but the thoughts of her conversation with Joseph kept reoccurring in her mind.
Should she have aborted the baby? That was the first thought. It was out of the question now, but she could've just aborted the baby and Chane would've never known she was pregnant, but would she have been able to go through with it? A baby wasn't a bad thing, but this one could certainly ruin Connie's life and its own. Mrs. Gribble didn't have to worry about that because her husband was dense, but it didn't pay off in the end anyway. Since it was too late for that, even more terrifying and troubling thoughts circled through her head. What would happen if this baby found out who their real father was, or even worse, what would happen if Chane found out that the baby wasn't his? Sure, pigmentation wasn't too much of an issue, but there were other factors that that could reveal the race of the child easily, and Chane wasn't stupid either. Would Connie and the baby be abandoned? What would Connie's parents think of her if they found out that she had cheated on Chane? They would never be able to face the Wassonasongs again. Connie would never be able to face her parents again. Connie sat up in bed. She couldn't sleep, not with all these problems presenting themselves.
Connie turned and looked out her window at- Bobby's window. The room was pitch black and had probably not been visited in years unless Mrs. Hill was cleaning it out of nostalgia, which Connie was sure she did. She knew it was crazy, but Connie soon found herself standing outside her bedroom window, closing it, and opening the window of Bobby's bedroom. Her thoughts quietly subsided as she hoisted herself clumsily into the bedroom, and then closing the window. Again, Connie knew it was crazy, but she found herself lying in Bobby's bed, letting the deep indent of the mattress cradle her, and covered herself in the bed's blankets. For the first time since her pregnancy, Connie felt safe and relaxed. She quickly drifted off to sleep.