Ben’s time the last two weeks was spent between working, tending Audrey and her kids and going back and forth between his and Grace’s apartment.
Ben was finishing up the next batch of marijuana when Nick came back from work. It was a big one. He knew if they were able to sell the extra, it would help pay most of Grace’s medical bills. Then he wouldn’t be forced to ask his Dad for money, something he very much did not want to do. To that end, Ben had already potted a few of the better buds so he could step up production.
“Wow!” said Nick, “Is that the next batch?”
“Yes,” said Ben smiling, “It’s a good one.”
Ben motioned to the chair. “Sit down. I have a proposition for you.”
Nick sat down. “Sure, what’s up?”
“Well, I want Grace to move in here,” said Ben.
“Okay…sure. But what about when the baby comes. Won’t it be a bit crowded here. Are ya’ll going to find a new place then?”
“Well, that’s where the proposition comes in. She doesn’t want to share an apartment with you. No offense man, but…”
“So you are kicking me out?” he asked, a hurt look on his face.
“No. Not exactly. You can move to Grace’s apartment. I would move there, but it’s too small for a baby. It’s an efficiency so it’s inexpensive. Plus it’s way nicer than this dump. It’s perfect for one person, or two, if Rachael decides to join you.”
“Shit Ben…I can’t believe after just one year things have changed this much. I don’t think I’m ready to ask Rach to move in. Can I at least talk to her about this first?”
“Nick, I really need you to do this. Listen, I haven’t told anyone, but Grace’s pregnancy is high-risk. She has a condition that could cause her to need a c-section, maybe even bed-rest during the last few months. I need her here, with me.
“And this,” he said pointing to the jars of marijuana, “is going to help pay for her medical bills. I can’t do this in her apartment.”
Nick just stared at him, “Damn Ben. I’m sorry. Why didn’t you tell me before now that Grace had problems?”
“I’m scared and I don’t like to think about it. I just need to take care of her,” said Ben getting emotional.
“Shit Ben, we weren’t supposed to become dealers.”
Ben looked up at Nick, anger taking over from the sadness. “Not we. Me. And tell me, how the hell else I am going to pay for her medical bills with a shitty part time job?”
“Your folks have money. They will help,” suggested Nick.
When Ben got an ‘Oh Shit’ look on his face, Nick surmised the truth. “Ben, you haven’t told them yet, have you?”
Ben shook his head.
“Dude, you have to call them. Do it right now. Pull the band-aid off and get it over with.”
“I am not asking them for money Nick. I don’t want to owe them a damn thing.”
“Okay. But they should know you are going to be a father Ben. Call them, now. I will go talk to Rachael about moving and give you some privacy.”
Nick got up to leave and looked back at Ben. “Now Ben,” he added and walked out the door.
Ben took out his phone and stared at it. Why is Nick always right? He already felt like nothing to his parents. This was only going to make him seem more like a loser in their eyes. Regardless, he had to tell them. Maybe they would surprise him.
“Hey mom,” said Ben when Kaitlin answered the phone.
“Is everything okay?” she asked.
“Yes. I’m good. I just needed to tell you something.”
“Mom, I met someone. Her name is Grace.”
“That’s nice. How is school and work?”
“Mom! Listen…please. I am going to ask her to marry me.”
“I love her and she loves me.”
“How long have you known her Ben? You can’t have known her long enough to make this kind of life changing decision. Can’t you wait until after you graduate? You’ve only been there for a year.”
His mother sounded panicked so he might as well drop the other shoe. “Mom. There’s more. Seems like I didn’t learn from you and Reese….she’s pregnant.”
“Oh Ben……God, I’m so sorry. But that doesn’t mean you have to marry her.”
Just as he figured, she wasn’t on his side. She did everything for Reese when his two kids were born. And Reese was in High School! Ben couldn’t help the anger that rolled through him at her words.
“Sorry? You are sorry that I am in love and am going to be a father? I am happier than I have ever been in my entire life and you are sorry? Go to hell!” His hands were shaking when he disconnected the call. It was all he could to not throw his phone across the room.
He jumped when it rang in his hand. His mom. He hit ignore to stop the ringing.
Seconds later, he got a text from her. He deleted it without reading it.
Ben needed to calm his nerves so he got up and grabbed a beer from the fridge. He downed half of it in one long drink before plopping back down in the chair.
The door opened and Nick walked in looking worried.
“She fucking called you!?” shouted Ben, more of a statement than a question. His anger was escalating.
“Ben, what the hell happened? Your mom’s hysterical. And why didn’t you tell me you and Grace were getting married.”
“She said she was fucking sorry for me. I don’t know why I expected her to be happy for me, to be supportive.”
“She was crying and wanted me to tell you she was sorry,” said Nick.
Ben’s phone rang again. His Dad. “Good news travels fast. It’s Dad.”
“Answer it Ben,” instructed Nick.
Ben shot Nick a ‘go-to-hell’ look, then slid his finger across the screen to connect the call. “You call to offer your condolences too?” he said into the phone.
“I called because you need to apologize to your mother. How dare you talk to her like that! Just because you get one of your bimbos pregnant doesn’t give you the right to be disrespectful to your mother!”
“Nice. Not only condolences but a goddamned lecture. That’s perfect coming from someone that treated his family like a fucking punching bag! Don’t you ever refer to Grace as a bimbo again. She’s the only person that gives a damn about me. I love her and she loves me – so save your breath and don’t call me back!”
Ben looked up. He was so pissed he’d forgotten Nick was sitting there. Shit. “Nick…it’s not like it sounded man.”
“Then you better explain because that was exactly how it sounded – unless you made that shit up and I’m pretty sure you didn’t. Ben, did your Dad abuse your family? Is that why they divorced?”
“My whole family is fucked up. I’m done with them and I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Ben, that’s not an explanation,” said Nick.
“I’m not talking about it,” said Ben with lessening anger, “Please don’t tell Rachael or Emma. I can’t deal with the pity.”
“NO!!” spat out Ben, “She doesn’t need to have to deal with my family’s dirty laundry. She has enough to worry about.”
“I’m sorry, but I have to ask. Does your Dad’s current wife know?”
“You’re not going to let it go are you?”
“Janet and Connor could be in danger.”
“Yes, okay! She knows! He only hit Mom and Reese. Mom left him and he finally got help. So yes, his NEW wife and kid are fine. He treats them like they hung the fucking moon.”
“I’m sorry Ben. That really sucks.”
“Why does everyone feel sorry for me? Goddammit Nick.”
“When are you and Grace getting married?” asked Nick.
Focusing on Grace took the edge off his anger and he felt himself immediately relax. Ben couldn’t stop the smile that took over his face if he tried. “As soon as possible. I hope. I sorta need to get a ring and ask her first.”
Nick grinned and relaxed too. “Congratulations man. I always thought I would be married with 3 kids before you ever settled down with one woman! For what it’s worth, you couldn’t have found a better person to raise a family with.”
Ben sighed deeply. “Thanks Nick. I got lucky. I don’t know how. I swear she’s an angel, and I don’t deserve her.”