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Family Affair
Written By: Tammy Ferebee

            I grip his hand as we walk up the driveway.
            “You seem nervous.”
            “I hate family gatherings. They always seem so fake to me.”
            “Then why are we here?”
            “Because my father is sick,” I respond quickly. “I’m here to see my dad.”
            We walk inside my parent’s home. Southern accents surround me. I look at my boyfriend. He offers a smile. I smile back.
            “See him?”
            I continue to search the room with my eyes. “No.”
            “Claudette!” 
            I take a deep breath before turning towards my mother’s voice.
            “Well look at my little girl. Well, not so little anymore.”
            She puts her left hand on my hardened, very round belly.
            “Why didn’t you call and let us know that you’re expecting?”
            “I didn’t think you’d want to know mom.”
            “Why wouldn’t I wanna know?”
            “Well I’m not married. I don’t plan on getting married. I’m still not going to church. Frankly I thought you’d be disappointed.”
            Her eyes look into mine and then quickly move over to the man standing beside me.
            “Well hello. And who might you be?”
            He reaches out to shake my mother’s hand. “Michael Wade.”
            “Nice to meet you, Michael. Welcome to my home.” She turns to me. “I hope you’ll stay and at least have a plate. Your father’s out back with your sister.”
            She walks back into the kitchen area and we head back out the front door
            “We’re leaving?”
            “No. I’d just like to avoid bumping into anyone else I don’t want to see.”
            We push open the gate and walk into my father’s masterpiece.
            “My father landscaped this entire backyard. That’s his garden. He installed that fountain, and built that deck by hand.”
            “Looks good. That’s what he does for a living?”
            “No. He just loves working with his hands in his free time. My father’s been in the insurance business for over forty years.”
            We slowly step up onto the deck. I spot my father and older sister. My father smiles as soon as our eyes meet.
            “He looks happy to see you.”
            “He always is." I smile at my father. “Hey pop.”
            “Claudette. Look at you girl. That baby fin to bust outta there any day now, huh?
            “I still got two months to go, pop.”
            “Well how much bigger you gonna get. You can’t stretch too much more.”
            I chuckle.
            “Nice to see you, Claudette. Congratulations.”
            I turn to my sister. “Thank you, Charlie.”
            “So, pop. The yard looks good.”
            “It sure does, sir,” Michael compliments.
            “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude. Pop, this my boyfriend Michael. Michael, this is my pop.”
            They shake hands.
            “So this is the baby daddy?”
            I cut my eyes at my sister. “No. This is the father of my child.”
            “Same thing.”
            “No it’s not. I know how you mean it Charlie and I’m not in the mood for your shit today.”
            Michael squeezes my hand.
            “Charlotte, go get me a beer,” my father orders. 
            My sister quickly walks off, passing both coolers.
            “Sit down, Claudette.”
            I sit aside my father. 
            “Boy or girl?”  
            “I told you it’s a girl, pop.”
            “Have you thought of any names?”
            “No.”
            “You only got two months left.”
            “I think about it every day, pop. I’ll let you know the second I think of a name.”
            “So Michael, what do you do, son?”
            “I’m a criminal attorney,” he answers proudly.
            “Well damn, I needed you a few years back.”
            We laugh.
            “Pop, that wasn’t a criminal offense.”
            “And I wasn’t a practicing attorney back then,” Michael adds.
            “So you guys living together?” my father questions.
            “Nope,” I answer quickly.
            My father nods. There’s no judgment covering his face.
            “So, how long did it take you to landscape back here, sir?”
            “You like it?”
            “I love it; especially that fountain.”
            “Well come on and walk with me then. I’ll show you the whole yard and tell you how long it took me to finish each section. I might even share a few of my secrets.”
            My father slowly gets up from his chair.
            “Come on now, Claudette.”
            “No thanks, pop. I think I’ll rest for a minute. You guys go talk.”
            As they step down off the deck, I look around the yard. I look at my distant family members. I look at those sitting just a few feet away from me on the deck. I hear the whispers. Most of them coming from women. Women on my mother’s side. I assume the gossip is about me showing up pregnant. Pregnant with no husband, no college degree, and no cross hanging from my neck.
            “Claudette?”
            I turn quickly and look behind me.
            “When did you get here?”
            “A few minutes ago.”
            He takes a seat beside me.
            “You should have told me you were coming,” he whispers.
            “Why would I do that?”
            “I thought we said we’d keep in touch.”
            “No, you said we should keep in touch. I told you to act like nothing ever happened. I don’t know why it’s so hard for you to do that.”
            “Cause you’re carrying my child. What kind of man would I be to have a child and pretend that I don’t?”
            “Would you lower your damn voice?”
            “You wanna go somewhere and talk?”
            “No. I’m here with someone. Someone I can be seen with in public. Someone who plans on raising this child with me.”
            “Well maybe I should go talk to your boyfriend because another man isn’t raising my child, Claudette.”
            “I don’t think it’s yours.”
            “Well I know it is.”
            “Geez, Bryan, why can’t you just leave me alone? You have a wife. Do you wanna ruin your marriage?”
            “Stop faulting me for caring about my child.”
            “She isn’t yours,” I whisper angrily.
            “She? It’s a girl?”
            I sigh loudly. 
            “I wanna see her, Claudette.”
            “Go to hell, Bryan. This is not about the child. This is just about you remaining in control. I know it makes you feel like a man. At any minute you can tell the world that I slept with my sister’s husband. You can make my family hate me even more. But you fail to realize something, Bryan. I don’t care. I really don’t care if they know. They already hate me. You would be hurting yourself more than you would be hurting me if you decide to pursue this parenting thing. These people will make your life a living hell. Not to mention the alimony you’d be paying my sister and the child support I’d rape you for.”
            The anger in his face tickles me.
            “Tell em’ Bryan. And if you think I haven’t watched my own ass, the egg is on your face. He knows that I was sleeping with someone else around the time I got pregnant. I didn’t lie to him. And he doesn’t care. He still wants to be with me. He still wants to be a part of this child’s life. Whether you tell or not, I’ll still have everything I want.”
            “Bryan!” my sister calls out from the bottom of the deck stairs. 
            “Yeah, babe.”
            “What are you doing? I thought you said you needed to talk to dad.”
            He stands. “Yeah I’m going to. I just saw your sister sitting here and I wanted to congratulate her on her pregnancy.”
            “Well if you’ve congratulated her, come on.”
            He steps off the deck and I text Michael that I’m ready to go. As I watch my boyfriend walk towards the deck, I stand.
            “You okay?” he asks
            “Yeah I’m fine. Like I told you before, I just can’t stand these family gatherings.”

 

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