A Million Dreams
The university found out, of course. They gave me my diploma, but I wasn’t allowed to attend the graduation ceremony, and I was told to move off campus immediately. I had nowhere to go but home.
My father, always the responsible one, was angry and disappointed. No surprise there.
My mother seemed more worried about the age difference. She said that we were at very different stages in life. Katherine being 38 had never bothered me before, but maybe my mother was right. I was only 23, so it was a pretty big gap.
“We’ve given you everything, Eric. Always. Everything you wanted – and you almost threw away your entire future because you were thinking with the wrong head! I thought we raised you better than this.”
“I know, dad. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. And we… I thought we were being careful.”
I hid my face in my hands.
“Just… not careful enough, I guess.”
My father, of course, was thinking like a lawyer. He insisted that I should also get a paternity test.
That hit me hard. I hadn’t even considered the fact that I might not be the father either.
“Seriously, Eric, for all you know, the father could be any student on campus.”
“That’s out of line, dad! Yes, we were stupid, but Katherine is not… she’s not like that.”
My father looked at me, stone-faced.
“How certain are you, son?”
I understood what he meant. The amount of cheating and lying he’d seen as a divorce lawyer for over three decades was staggering.
“I… I guess I can’t be sure.”
Finally, my mother spoke up.
“Zane, honey, you’re being too hard on him. And her. We all make mistakes, remember? And this family wouldn’t even exist if my life – or yours – had turned out the way we originally planned.”
My father briefly glanced at the pictures behind us. I knew he’d once been engaged to someone else.
“No amount of arguing can change what happened. What we need to do is find out how we can best help our son.”
She put her hand on mine.
“And our possible grandchild.”
I let out a sob, and my mother pulled me to her, hugging me tightly.
As my mother held me, I wished I could go back to being the carefree teenager who had his life all figured out. Was it really only a few years ago?
My room had been left untouched while I was away. It was almost like travelling back in time – almost. I could hear my parents’ voices downstairs. It reminded me of the night the Sixams came for my brother. I briefly wondered what Daniel would be doing now if he hadn’t gone with them. We never heard from him anymore.
My perfect brother definitely wouldn’t be going around knocking up married women, that’s for sure. But I had plenty of problems without worrying about him. How could I be so stupid? I had no idea what to do.
I used to have my entire future planned out. I had a million dreams. Some people have a 5 year plan, I had a 25 year plan. Now I felt lost and uncertain.
My father came in and sat on my bed. I quickly wiped away my tears.
My father apologised for being so hard on me. He told me that he had discussed things with my mother, and they had decided to do their best to still make some of my dreams come true.
Daniel was unlikely to ever return, so I was their only heir. My parents were going to cash in some of their assets and help me and Katherine get set up. He called it an early inheritance.
The numbers he mentioned were intimidating. I always knew we were pretty well off, but I had no idea how much money my parents had accumulated in investments and savings over the years.
My father pulled some strings and called in a few favours. We managed to find the perfect place in Brindleton Bay, all the way across the country.
We bought the most adorable house in a quiet neighbourhood. It was far away from my parents, but also far away from the scandal. Katherine and I needed a fresh start.
The most important thing, however, was that the house was right next to a vet clinic, and the owner was interested in selling it. My most important dream could still come true.
Katherine, being pregnant and newly fired, was not finding any jobs, and I was struggling to get the vet clinic up and running after years of neglect by the previous owner, but I finally felt a little optimistic about the whole thing. Maybe we could do this.
Soon after we moved in, some of the neighbours came to welcome us to the neighbourhood. I was very surprised to recognise them – Colten and Kailani, two of my brother’s closest friends in high school. My brother had even mentioned his secret crush on Kailani before he left.
Kailani was touched when she heard about our situation, especially the fact that Katherine was pregnant.
She told Katherine to ask if she needed anything – Colten and Kailani had just discovered that they were having their second child. I was glad that Katherine seemed to be making new friends already. I didn’t want to be her only support.
They were my friends too, of course – but I was mostly smitten with their beautiful dog, Sansa.
I was still adjusting to being a proper adult – being a house owner was expensive and we wouldn’t have made it without the seemingly endless support from my parents.
The next few months passed, and we slowly settled in as Katherine’s belly grew.
I tried to be excited, but I was mostly filled with dread. Katherine was thrilled, decorating the nursery and constantly bugging me about baby names. She’d given up on ever having kids since Antony didn’t want any, but it had always been a secret dream of hers.
Kailani was also getting bigger. I’d often meet her when she walked Sansa as I was going to the vet clinic, and she was only a month or so behind Katherine. I was much more relaxed around her – at least that baby wasn’t my responsibility.
It was harder to relax around Katherine. She was hormonal and frustrated with her new, heavier body, worried about her future job situation, and it didn’t help that Antony was dragging out their divorce.
Arguments seemed to erupt out of nowhere. I would be lost in my own thoughts for a bit, not paying attention to something she said, and she’d snap.
I tried to explain that I was thinking about important things, like how to make the vet clinic profitable so at least one of us could bring in some money. I didn’t really mean to be hurtful, but the money situation stressed me out. I hated relying on my parents for everything.
She obviously didn’t respond well to the low blow about her lack of career, and called me out for being immature.
She made me feel like a child. It was hard not to retaliate and say something that made her feel old, like how she clearly had all the maturity in this relationship – and then I was the bad guy.
I hated arguing with her. She clearly had more experience in that as well.
After an argument, I’d usually go for a run to clear my head and give us both some space. Sometimes I wondered what would happen if I just kept running. I was sick of worrying – about the bills, the clinic, the baby, and our strained relationship.
At least Katherine’s divorce was finally happening.
Antony came by so they could sign the final papers together. It was… awkward to say the least.
I tried to give them some privacy and stayed in the living room, but I could hear him being all smug and patronising.
It kinda seemed like he was getting revenge on her for cheating on him. Turning her in to the university management wasn’t enough, he apparently enjoyed seeing her tired and heavy and frustrated. I almost intervened when I heard him refer to her “boy toy”.
I knew he was several years older than Katherine, in his mid-forties. It clearly bothered him to be replaced by someone half his age.
Katherine was perfectly able to stand up for herself, though. She told him to just sign the damn papers and get out.
In the end, he told her she wasn’t worth it, signed, and left. I was actually proud of her.
She still felt sick a lot. It did worry me a little, I knew that the nausea wasn’t supposed to last all the way through a pregnancy, but I didn’t truly believe that anything was wrong.
One night, just as I had fallen asleep, Katherine got out of bed. She was in a lot of pain, so she woke me up, and we hurried to the hospital. I was scared. The baby wasn’t due for another couple of weeks.
I just stood there, useless, as a nurse ran some tests and listened to Katherine explain how she was feeling. Then he pressed a red button on the wall.
Suddenly it seemed like half the hospital was in the room. Katherine was pale. The nurse and a doctor exchanged a look that gave me chills. Something was definitely wrong.
I was left to wait while Katherine was whisked away and prepared for surgery. Surgery? Nothing made sense and no one told me anything.
Finally the doors opened and I was called in.
The surgeon was the first person to really acknowledge my existence. He asked me if I was squeamish. I told him I was a veterinarian. He nodded, then pulled out a scalpel.
I was much less prepared for it than I thought I’d be, but I kept it together for Katherine.
Soon, the surgeon wiped off the wriggling, crying bundle and handed it to Katherine.
“Congratulations, mom and dad. It’s a healthy baby girl!”
I couldn’t believe it. Just like that, I was a father. I had a daughter.
Why wasn’t I happy?
BRILLIANT INSIGHTS FROM ERIC IN THIS CHAPTER:
My dad is mad at me. It’s because this was 100% my fault, not the older adult who I met when she was in a position of power over me, and he knows better.
The woman who cheated on her husband may also be sleeping with other people. What????
I planned my life 25 years in advance, but it didn’t stick to my plan! What happened?
I really enjoyed this one instance in my entire life of receiving affection from my mother. I wonder if it had anything to do with something bad happening first and her having to step in to do damage control.
My much older girlfriend acts a lot older than me and called me immature. She makes me feel bad when I stand up for myself! Hey!
The guy whose wife I slept with doesn’t seem to like me very much. He doesn’t like her either. I guess that means he’s a jerk.
He called me a boy toy. Hey! I’m not that! That made me feel bad! Go suck your own dick, asshole!
I can’t afford this whole big house for myself, and I have no idea how to be a parent. Whew! This adult stuff sure is hard!
CONCLUSION: Yay, Eric! Good job! Gold star and a sticker on your homework! You should go reward yourself with a bag of chips from the campus store!
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For a second I thought she was having a miscarriage
Poor Eric, man this is NOT the way to start your life lol
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