“Come on, come on.” Spring tapped the little white stick against her knees, willing it to change color.
“I don’t think that’s gonna help,” Jason said. He was standing with his back pressed against the door of their stall, looking down at her. She should have stood too. It seemed like a standing occasion. But after she had peed on the stick her knees refused to make the trip upward. They had just ceased to work. “If you keep messing with that stick you might skew the results.”
Spring shot him a look. “Since when do you use words like skew?”
Jason released his brown hair from the rubber band at the nape of his neck, only to gather it back up into a small pony tail and secure it again. He had done this at least a dozen times while they had waited for the results. “It’s one syllable. Don’t be shocked.”
Spring looked at the stick again. The little pink cross in the window had darkened, almost to a crimson red. She was not only pregnant. She was really, really pregnant. She thrust the stick at Jason and fell forward, cradling her knees. “Oh god!” Jason went to pat her head but she pulled away. “Please just stop.”
He said nothing as he squatted down beside. She could feel him listening to her, waiting for the sobs to subside. He had no problem fighting her, but he was at a loss when she cried. She took a deep breath to calm herself, a trick Lanie had taught her when she younger. She had suffered anxiety from crowds then, a job hazard for any carnie. “Breathe in, breath out,” Lanie had instructed her. “Find your center. C’mon girl. Stop breathing like you just run a fucking marathon. Slowly. In. out. Release.”
Once she had calmed he reached for her hair, letting the baby fine strands of yellow-white ribbon slide through his fingers. She didn’t let many people touch her hair, but she let him. “I suppose,” she said, looking up at him with red, tear-stained eyes, “that purchasing a condom from a rusted machine in the lobby of Ed’s Guns and Exotic Animal Shoppe was probably not our wisest move.” She sobbed and laughed at the same time and felt a long line of snot fall from her nose. Jason grabbed a wad of toilet paper and caught it.
“You don’t have to do this alone. I’m here.”
Spring felt the wail in her throat and fought it. She was angry right now, and she was afraid she would say something she regretted. “I just got accepted into Arizona State,” she said, drying her eyes on the back of her hand. “After three years of struggling to get through Community College so that I could leave this… life behind, things were starting to change for me. Now what?”
“You can still go. This isn’t the 50’s.Girls go to school pregnant all the time. Even on TV.”
"I don’t want to go pregnant!” She started crying again and she tucked her face into her skirt, smearing mascara across the hem. He didn’t get it. “I wanted to go…hot.”
Jason laughed. “Hot’s what got you into this mess, my dear. You’re too hot for your own good.”
Spring snorted and took the tissue Jason offered her. He knew her too well. They had been friends for years, but a few drinks and a slow night slinging cotton candy last fall had changed it all. Now they were bound together, one way or another. As Lanie would say, their fate strings had gotten all jumbled up.
“I got a crazy idea,” he said, pulling her up by the arms. He was a good six inches taller than her and smelled like French fries and Old Spice. “Why don’t we get married? We’ve been practically living together in my van for the last six months. Why not make it official?” He pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her. “Just think…you, me, the little Bambino, touring the country side together. If he’s musically inclined we could start a family band. Be like the Partridges. Only not so gay.”
I could, she thought, nuzzling into him. He was safe and warm and familiar. She remembered the day her mother had picked him up on the side of the road nine six earlier. “Hitch hiking to Santa Cruz” he had said, off to pursue his music career. He never made it to Santa Cruz. Once he learned how much money could be made hustling kids out of their allowance to see The Half Monkey Lady, he had settled in. That was the way it was here. The Carnival was one big roach motel. You check in, you eat a bunch of crap, and you stay until you die. Very few people escaped. They had intentions of leaving, but one by one The Carnival took them all. Heart disease. Obesity. Drugs. Equipment failure. Dead by fifty, most of them. There was no fading gracefully into old age here. You just stopped. If it didn’t take them entirely it took some of their best parts. Just two months ago a young man had given up a limb to a roller coaster. He had climbed the steel mountain to fix a dangling bolt, when the car ran over his arm. They say he may have saved some people with his bravery. But the papers never heard of it. Bad for business. Now he’s quietly employed as the ticket taker at the back of the lot.
“What do you say?” Jason pulled her in tighter. “I bet I’m damned good at changing diapers.”
She took a deep breath. Though she cared about Jason, he had nothing more to offer her than his body, his guitar, and the eternal belief that someday he would roadie for Phish. “It wouldn’t work.” She whispered. “We’re too different. And besides…”
Jason released her from his arms and narrowed his eyes, ready to battle. “And besides what? Oh, never mind, I know. I’m not good enough for you.” He pushed through the stall door and into the empty bathroom. “Afraid you will end up like your mother?”
Spring lowered her eyes. Yes, she was afraid of that, and why not? It was a legitimate fear. But there was more to it. She followed him into the bathroom. “We just aren’t right for each other Jason.”
“Oh, I see.” Jason fell forward over the standalone sink, slamming his hands into the mirror. “We were right for each other a few weeks ago weren’t we? And even a few nights ago. But not for the long haul. No, Spring reserves that spot for someone more worthy. Am I right?”
“Stop it. That’s not fair.”
“Isn’t it? Don’t think I don’t know about that little fairy tale you believe in. You get one love in this lifetime and that’s it right? Don’t waste it on the Ferris wheel guy.”
Spring felt her knees give and her stomach roil. She moved back into the stall and fought the nausea. It seemed too early for morning sickness. “Jason, please. There are many reasons we aren’t right for each other. You’re my best friend but…”
“No, I get it. What could I possibly offer you?” He turned the water on and shut it off again. “I hope for your sake that fairy tales come true. Or you’re in for a long, lonely life.” Spring heard him pull a paper towel from the chute, wipe his hands, and toss it into the waste bin. “When you decide what you want to do let me know. I will be there for the baby if decide to keep it. And I hope you do keep it.” Spring listened as Jason stomped across the bathroom and out the door.