On a lazy Saturday afternoon at the Beach House a knock on his room door caused Chase to look up from his book, slightly annoyed, not really feeling like company.
His parents were watching some movie he didn’t care for downstairs, he already declined their invite to join them, his sister was out with her boyfriend Logan.
“Come in!” he called out anyway, and was very surprised to see Briar Rose appear.
Putting down the book he had been devouring until now, he got up to greet her with a hug, as customary now during her rare and brief visits home from college, and as he did, he felt her tremble, as she leaned deeper than usual into the embrace, almost clinging to him.
“Are you okay? You are not okay, are you?” Chase asked her.
She shook her head into his shoulder.
“Your mom and dad are at it again?” he pried for information.
More head shaking.
“I think you are going to have to use words at some point, Bri.”
Nodding. A sniffle, heart wrenching. Whatever this was about, Chase knew his cousin well enough to know it was really bad.
“I am pregnant.” she mumbled now against his shoulder.
After a second to digest and verify words and meaning in his brain, Chase stiffened and pushed her away a little to look into her eyes, which were now filled with tears.
“That dude! The tattooed one, right?” he suspected.
“How does he feel about it?”
“I haven’t told anyone, except you now. I did about a dozen tests, couldn’t believe it. Still can’t. Chase, I need your help! I can’t go to anybody else. You, I can trust. I cannot keep it, which is why I cannot tell Kiera. You know how she is about kids, if I even breathed abortion around her, she’d have my hide. My parents would kill me either way, whether I keep it or get rid of it. It’s just that one option is a lot better to hide … meaning I don’t have to tell anybody else anything at all.”
“You … oh! Ummm …” Chase was completely overwhelmed with the news she unloaded on him.
“Will you help me? Please! Please, please, please say you will!” she begged.
“You need money?” Chase wondered about what exactly she was asking of him.
She shook her head.
“I … called. A … you know … clinic. I have an appointment, but I just cannot do that on my own. I’d die. Can you take me? Please! I can’t be alone. I really need you there. Moral support and just someone to keep me sane …”
Chase was so shocked, he couldn’t answer, just stared at her.
“Don’t look at me like that! I know I am a horrible, horrible person, I’ll go to hell, but I have no choice. My parents would kick me out, cut me off financially, were I to have a kid now. And Stryker … pretty sure he wouldn’t take the news well …”
Finally Chase found his composure and words again.
“You still have to tell him. His kid too. Maybe he loves you enough to change his mind and he wants the kid and helps you … even if not, he deserves to know. I would want to know.”
Briar Rose looked at him with an unreadable expression, somewhere between humiliated, scared and endlessly sad, but then nodded.
“Chase, could you go with me to see him? Pretty sure I know where he will be, we can go now if you have time. My appointment is Wednesday already ….”
“Wednesday? THIS Wednesday? As in four days from today? Bri, I work, you know that. I am still in my first year there, I cannot just take vacation days, and definitely not on such short notice!”
“They’re not open on weekends. Can’t you call in sick? Pretty please? For me? Pleeeease …”
“Okay, I’ll figure something out. Maybe we won’t have to go at all after talking to your boyfriend. What kinda name is Stryker anyway?”
“His last name. He hates his first name. It’s Jake. I like it, but he gets angry when I use it.”
Chase ended up driving them from dive to dive, no sign of Stryker.
When they finally did find him, it had gotten dark on them. He was hard to miss, sitting with a bunch of other tattooed and noisy people, most of them beyond drunk or even worse. Bri managed to pry him away, he appeared sober enough for the news he was about to be confronted with. Briar Rose pulled him outside to have a little more privacy and so she wouldn’t have to yell the news over loud music and louder inebriated bar patrons.
“What’s this gonna be? An interjection?” he asked, demonstratively disinterested, while lighting a cigarette.
“I think you mean intervention.” Chase corrected, earning a raised eyebrow, but Stryker just sat down on a motorcycle, presumably his, saying nothing more.
Briar Rose nudged Chase, shaking her head, then looked at Stryker, who in turn looked completely unfazed.
“Stryker, I … am pregnant.”
“Is that so? Could be anyone’s.”
“Hey! My cousin isn’t a whore!”
“Chase, please let me handle this! But he’s right. It is yours. You are the only one.”
Chase could not have been more uncomfortable, being in this place, around that guy, listening to his cousin talk about her most intimate problems.
“So get rid of it. Your daddy’s loaded. Have him write the check and done!” Stryker’s words were spoken without any detectable emotion.
“How can you be so cold?!” Briar Rose sounded devastated.
“What do you want me to say? I don’t want no brat or shitty diapers in my life! Last thing I want. Or need.”
“But I love you. And you love me. We can make this …” Briar Rose’s plea was interrupted by a brief, joyless burst of laughter by Stryker, before he said
“Love you? I don’t love you. And if you love me, that’s your problem, just like being knocked up is. Should’ve been more careful.” now Stryker’s tone was dismissive with hints of arrogance.
At this point Briar Rose sobbed hard, staring at him in utter disbelief, her entire body trembling with emotion, none of it good, which angered Chase.
“Hey, buddy! This is your child she is carrying! Show some decency! Takes two to get where she is at now, and you are just as much to blame as her.” he accused Stryker, hoping to appeal to what ounce of humanity he may have left.
“How was I to know that there are still bitches around nowadays who are too stupid to use birth control?! Not that hard. If she didn’t, this is on her. Deal with it. Serves her right for being a dumbass.” he shrugged nonchalantly.
“You could have used something! Matter of fact – why didn’t you?!” Chase felt horrified at the thought what other repercussions this recklessness could have for Bri.
“Why?! I am clean. And much easier for the women! If I wanna screw around, it’s with chicks, not condom wrappers. Total mood killer for me. Now take this shit-show home, little Timmy, you are ruining my night and all that I am gonna say, has been said. At this point you are just boring me and I get angry when I am bored.” a gleam of dare to test his patience any longer and deal with the consequences appeared in Stryker’s eyes.
“No, no, no, no! I am not gonna let you off THAT easy. You did this to her. You are going to help work though this.” Chase demanded against better judgement.
“Work through this? Do I look like Oprah to you? And what are you gonna do to make me, huh, little boy?!”
Chase was briefly distracted by Briar Rose crying, negating any reply by him, maybe even preventing an escalation of the situation.
“Take me home, Chase. Please, I want to get away from here!” she begged.
“Great idea! Go, and stay gone, we are through anyway. You started to bore me weeks ago.” Stryker growled.
He was visibly done with his cigarette – and this conversation – now and started playing with his lighter like a silent challenge to bother him some more and deal with the consequences.
Briar Rose just turned and ran, when Chase finally caught up with her she was inconsolable, until she cried her last tears into Chase’s shoulder, who held her that entire time, probably a solid 10 minutes straight.
“I’ll take you home. A hot shower and your bed may do wonders for how you feel.” Chase said words that felt empty, but was the best he could think of.
“No! I cannot go home! Can I stay with you? Only tonight? Please don’t send me away.”
“Bri, I am not sending you ‘away’. I am suggestion to take you to your home, which you love and where you are loved. Don’t make it sound like I was gonna leave you under some bridge on the wrong side of the tracks or something. And you know we don’t have a guest room at the Beach House …”
“Please Chase! I just can’t go home … not right now. Can’t … just can’t …” her eyes welled up again and he would have agreed to anything now to not have his cousin go into another sobbing fit.
“Okay.” Chase sighed.
“Top of the morning to ya, you couch hugger! Let me guess, beds are so 2018? Or is that your silent cry for daddy to take you camping again. I admit it’s been a while …” Blake smirked down at his son, who was blinking against the bright morning light, trying to wake up.
“Morning dad. No, I … Bri’s in my room. We .. umm … went out last night, it got late and she didn’t want to wake her parents.” Chase hated lying to his father. He sat up, rubbing his head as if he had a headache. In a way this Briar Rose thing was hurting his head.
Blake eyed his son suspiciously, as he watched him reach for his jogging pants and tee, then clumsily slipping both on
“Hm. Okay. At least you went out, finally! My niece deserves a medal for accomplishing to pry you away from those video games and books of yours on a Saturday night! But next time, please let me or your mom know someone’s staying over. Your sister crashed at Logan’s place last night, so had you told me, I would have known two things: one, clothing was NOT optional for me this morning – cos I was considering streaking to see what having the house to ourselves would be like again – and two, Bri could have used Kiera’s bed. Want breakfast, kiddo?” Blake tried to stop from grinning, disappointed his joking threat didn’t get more of a rise out of his son.
“Well, hindsight is 20:20, dad. As much as I hate having blocked your freedom from clothing, cos nothing like seeing all of your 50 year old father first thing when you wake up, but I didn’t think about it last night. And yeah, breakfast sounds good. I’ll go see if Bri is up and wants anything.” Chase didn’t feel much like joking, but humored his dad by playing into his teasing, which is all this was. Blake would never. And if he did, Hailey would set him straight immediately.
Chase ran up the stairs to make sure Briar Rose didn’t talk to his mom before he could update her on which lie he told to cover up what was really going on. He knocked, then entered. Bri was already dressed, sitting on his bed.
He briefed her, asked about breakfast, but she only shook her head, looking just as pitiful as the day before, so he sat next to her.
“I am going to have to have an abortion, Chase. Think about that for a minute. Can you imagine? How did I get here? I never thought that would ever happen to me. Never mind that I also had my heart torn out, broken into a million pieces and tossed at my feet, something I cannot even really think about because of the other elephant in the room. I was so stupid. So, so, so stupid. I really loved him and thought he loved me too. What an idiot I am! Now I have to live with this. I should have listened to you, all the times you told me to stay away from Stryker. So stupid.” tears were beginning to well up in her eyes.
“Hey, quit beating yourself up. Stuff like this can always happen, the heart wants what it wants and birth control can fail. It’s a known risk when you engage in … certain activities. Especially in this family. All you are doing is confirm the rule. And you have the bestest family in the world. We won’t let you down. After the initial surprise of course. And you’ll always have me, you know that.”
He smiled encouraging and she even smiled back. Just a little curl of the lips, but at least the tears stopped.
“Thank you Chase. For all you already have done, and for what you promised you’ll do for me. And for being there when I needed you. I will never forget that. You are the best.”
“Who knows, maybe one day I need your help. If you remember this then, that’s good enough.”
“I really don’t get why you don’t have a girl. I never understood that you just don’t date. You are the epitome of the perfect boyfriend. And you’re easy on the eye. All the girls I have ever known that knew you too were crushing on you. 14 year old me included. Oh man, another one for my wall of shame.”
“Can we drop all this now? I am so tired of everybody analyzing my relationship status. Let’s get some breakfast.” Chase basically moaned the words.
It was truly his least favorite subject, but the one constantly on his own mind. He had no idea why he was single, other than the fact that while he wasn’t shy per se, around any girl he even remotely liked more than as just a friend, he got terribly tongue-tied and uncomfortable, which usually appeared either stand-offish, derpy or arrogant to any object of his desire, when all it was, was his mind on overload trying to look cool, intelligent, desirable, basically just like a guy they would really want to get to know better.
Instead, it always ended up repelling those he wanted closer.
“…thank you for filling this out. Did you read through all the documentation and information as I instructed you, and did you understand everything? Do you have any questions?” the nurse sounded rehearsed, not very compassionate, which Chase disliked, but said nothing.
“Read it all, no questions. Just want to get this over with.” Briar Rose mumbled as she handed the files she had been pressing against her chest like a security blanket over to the nurse, who took them and put them on a pile.
“Are you the father?” the nurse addressed Chase.
Before Chase could get a word out, Briar Rose replied
“Yes.” earning a shocked glance by Chase, who received a suspicious one from the nurse.
They sat down, and he immediately asked her about that.
“Bri, what the heck?!”
“Sorry, I had to. I didn’t want to be that girl … you know … dumped by the baby daddy.”
“I am your COUSIN!!!”
“Keep your voice down! They don’t know that unless you yell a little louder, then the whole town will!”
“What if I have to show ID or fill something out too?! Don’t think they’ll flag that we have the same last name?!”
“Okay, sorry. They won’t check your ID, why would they, but if it makes you feel better, I’ll go up there and tell her I lied because I am a dirty, disgusting slut who threw herself at the wrong guy like a whore and forgot to take her pill!” she buried her face in her hands.
“Chill out, Bri. Never mind that. Just try to relax best you can.” Chase said worried. Obviously his cousin wasn’t in a good spot mentally, so he was not going to argue with her.
There was a certain type of mood at that clinic. Sitting there, waiting to be called back, watching many distressed women and girls, those leaving with dead expressions in their eyes, nobody seemed relieved or happy. Not one single male except him was present. He swore to himself to never, ever put any girl into this position. If he ever were to get someone pregnant, he would own up to it. And he wondered what this would do to Bri.
A nurse came to take her back. The way she looked, deflated and hopeless, broke Chase’s heart, but there was nothing he could do about this situation, other than watch her leave on shaky knees.
An unknown while later he saw her again. Waiting had been dull and Chase lost all sense of time, now she didn’t even look at him, just ran right past him out the exit door.
He jumped up, watched her rush away as if the devil himself was after her, followed and stopped her when he finally caught up with her.
Holding her fast he let her cry without saying anything. No words were needed right now.
After minutes of crying, she pulled away. The look she gave him was like a puppy who got caught stealing a steak off the counter.
“Chase? Can I tell you something terrible? You have to promise not to be mad at me …”
“I … didn’t do it. I just … couldn’t go through with it. I …. I …. am sorry .. so so so sorry! ”
“Don’t apologize! Why would you apologize to me anyway? You should never have to apologize for this decision to anyone, this is your choice, Bri. And it’s gonna be okay. You’ll be okay. We’ll figure something out. Other people have handled this kinda thing before. We got a great family … we all help you through this. You will be fine. And a great mom.” Chase just rattled down things that he hoped would encourage her, while hiding his surprise.
“Chase? Can you do me another huge favor? Two actually.”
“Can you hold me some more? Makes me feel safe.”
“Done. What’s the other favor?” Chase asked as she nestled her face against his shoulder again, and he felt her exhale as if a giant load had been taken off her shoulders.
“Can you come home with me and be there while I tell mom and dad? You do not have to say a word, just be there and make sure they don’t toss me off the cliffs in a fit of rage. They have no idea Stryker even exists, so me winding up preggers is going to be a gigantic shock to them. My mom will lose her shit for sure, and daddy will be so very disappointed in me.” she mumbled against his jacket.
“Ok …” Chase sighed, thinking ‘oh boy’. Had he only told his dad, then he could go with them and diffuse whatever would happen. Now he had to bathe it out alone with Bri.