Nine Years Ago
I looked over at Tyler and studied him. His shaggy light brown hair sat just above his deep green eyes. I loved those eyes. They were the first thing I had noticed about him.
The first time I saw Tyler, he was walking down the hallway of our high school. It was my first day as a freshman and I was intimidated and so scared of my new surroundings.
Puberty had hit hard that summer before and I had woken up with boobs the size of my thighs that had blossomed overnight. Stretch marks littered my skin as my body took a turn for the worse. The acne got bad. My vision tanked so I needed glasses.
Just like that, I was the fat girl at the back of the class with glasses and a small voice. I wanted to fade into the background and forget about where I was for the next four years.
But once I saw Tyler, I felt myself bloom into a completely different person.
His green eyes sucked me in, and the way they grazed down my body made me shiver. I went out of my way to find the hallways he walked down just so I could watch him watch me. By the time my freshman year was over, I was madly in love with Tyler Browning, a guy on his way to becoming captain of the football team and soccer star extraordinaire.
What I didn’t know until the end of my sophomore year was just how taken he was with me as well.
“You look nice,” Tyler said.
His sweet voice ripped me from my trance.
“Thanks. It’s a new outfit.”
“It looks nice on you, Ana. I like what it does to your—everything.”
I blushed at his words as we sat there on his couch. Two years ago seemed like an eternity. We’d been sixteen at the time., learning how to drive and thinking we had the world at our fingertips. Now we were about to graduate. At only eighteen years old, we were trying to figure out what we were going to do with the rest of our lives.
Tyler wanted to go to law school, but the positive pregnancy test I had taken that morning forecasted a very different story for my future.
“I got my acceptance letter from Harvard a few days ago,” Tyler said.
“Oh my gosh, really? Can I see it?” I asked.
“You want to see it?”
“Is that not something I should see?”
“I wasn't sure how you were going to feel about it. I mean, Harvard isn’t really in California.”
“What does that have to do with anything? It’s your dream, right?”
“What do you mean, what does that have to do with anything?”
“Can I see the acceptance letter?” I asked again.
“Sure,” he mumbled.
He pushed himself off the couch, but I could tell by his movements that what I had said bothered him. I really didn’t know what to think. As an eighteen-year-old about to graduate high school, I didn’t have the emotional capacity to deal with his mood swings and the reality of the life I was living.
Closing my eyes, I conjured the image of that positive pregnancy test. The one in a plastic bag in my pocketbook. When Tyler had called me and asked me to come over tonight, I’d had it in my mind that I would tell him. I would tell him I was pregnant; then we could sit down and figure out a way to make it work.
After I was done crying on his shoulder at least.
“Here,” he said.
A piece of paper fell into my lap as I opened my eyes. He dropped onto the couch next to me, and I felt my anger getting the best of me. What in the world was his problem? He wasn’t the one pregnant and struggling to figure out what to do. He had a plan. He had a college that wanted him. He had a dream to fulfill.
All of mine had been smashed to bits.
Reading the acceptance letter, I had tears in my eyes. I was so proud of him. For the entirety of our senior year, he had been talking about Harvard, about going there and taking classes and enrolling in their law school program. I wanted to support him; I didn’t want to hold him back from fulfilling his dream.
My eyes flickered to my stomach before I set the letter off to the side.
“I’m really proud of you,” I said.
“That’s all you have to say, Ana?”
“What do you want me to say, Tyler? Tell me and I’ll say it.”
“I’m not going to tell you to say something. After two and a half years together, I figured I would get a little more than this.”
“I’m supporting you in your decision. What more could anyone ask for?”
“It doesn’t upset you at all that I’m about to cross the entire country to go to school?” he asked.
“Does it bother you? Apparently it does since you’re projecting.”
“Just because you took an A.P. psychology course, it doesn’t make you a therapist, Ana.”
“Then stop being so hard to read and talk to me, Tyler.”
The two of us had been stressed. Very stressed. Graduation was supposed to be a wondrous time, but we got a physical schedule of all the events we were required to attend: commencement and a senior barbecue and an awards ceremony and a local parade. A parade? Why a parade was required, I had no idea. Anyway, that stress had bled into our relationship. Things were weird and Tyler had been distant. Our conversations were strained and his kisses weren’t as personal or as sensual as they used to be.
We fought more than we should have.
“Are you even going to miss me if I leave?” Tyler asked.
“What kind of question is that? Of course I’m going to miss you,” I said.
“Then why aren’t you acting like it? Why are you acting like everything is okay and nothing around us is changing?”
“Because things change, Tyler. We’re graduating high school. Things are changing! Why would I act like nothing’s changing when it really is?”
“So this is nothing to you. I’m just going to go off to Harvard and we’ll never talk again? I love you, Ana. Don’t you love me?”
“Who the hell said anything about not talking when you left? Are you asking me to come with you or something?”
“No. Of course not.”
“Of course not? What does that mean? You’re acting like this is the end of our relationship, Tyler. Are you breaking up with me?”
“No. I would never do that,” he said.
“Then why are you ‘of course not’ asking me to come with you?”
“What does that even mean?”
“I don’t know! You're the one who said it!”
“Stop yelling at me. My parents are going to be home soon.”
I stood up and shook my head.
“Where are you going?” Tyler asked as I grabbed my purse.
“To clear my head. We’ve been fighting way too much lately and I think we could use some time apart.”
And I could use some time to convince myself of the decision I had just made.
He stood up. “Time apart? We’re about to get months of that and you want it now?”
“I’m not the one who started this argument in the first place. I said I was proud of you and you got huffy. What did you want me to say? That I don’t want you to go to Harvard? That I want you to stay with me always, even if it means sacrificing your entire future? What do you want me to do, Tyler? Tell me and I’ll do it! Because I love you, but for the love of hell you’re driving me nuts with your mood swings and your inability to talk about them!”
“Well maybe if you listened to me every once in a while, you’d hear things instead of always being clueless and in the dark!”
“I’m the clueless one? I’m proud of you, Tyler. I’m so glad you made it into Harvard and I know you’re going to rock ass, but I’m somehow the clueless one?”
“What are you even going to do when we graduate, Ana? You haven’t even opened up to me about your colleges, about where you applied and what you’re going to do! Why won’t you talk to me about this stuff? This is important. You want me to talk, but you don’t want to talk yourself.”
“Because what I want to do isn’t important anymore!”
“It’s important to me!” he exclaimed.
“Well you sure as hell aren’t acting like it is!”
“What do you think this entire conversation has been about if it’s not important to me? No, you know what? Never mind. I’m glad I’m leaving for Harvard soon. Maybe the people there will know how to interact with other human beings!”
I clenched my fists at my sides and stared him down. I felt my nostrils flaring and there was nothing I could do to stop them. Tyler’s stormy green eyes locked with mine as my heart shattered into a million pieces at my feet. Tears rose to my eyes and he faltered, but it was too late. Breathing got hard and my mind came to a careening halt, confirming what I knew I had to do.
I couldn’t let this pregnancy hold him back.
I couldn't let this pregnancy tie him to a woman he felt didn’t understand him.
“Well I’m glad, too. Maybe one of those people will understand you better than I do,” I said.
“Ana, I didn’t mean—”
“Maybe one of those college girls will love you like I do.”
“Ana, please sit down.”
“Maybe one of those beautiful, thin, confident women will make you forget all about me and my high school acne and my thick-framed glasses and everything else that comes with—”
“Ana, stop it!”
His hand came down on my arm, but I wrenched away from his grasp. I grabbed my purse and clutched it tightly to me, hoping and praying the pregnancy test didn’t fall out. I scrambled out his front door and ran to my car, then jumped in and sped out of his driveway without even buckling my seat belt.
I drove home with tears streaming down my face, wondering what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life.