Chapter Six, Part One
“Margaret, may I talk to you?” Susanne Timmons, my supervisor at work, poked her head into my office during my prep hour Monday morning. Fortunately, I was prepared for the day so I didn’t have to panic about chatting with Susanne. I nodded and motioned her in. Susanne was a middle-aged woman with salt-n-pepper hair who didn’t wear any makeup. She had a homey look to her which the kids loved. She was like the grandmother many of them never had, but she was much stricter than your average grandma. She cared about them, but held them accountable; it’s what made her so good with our population. I was learning by emulating her, but empathy was something that didn’t come naturally to me.
“What’s up, Susanne?” I asked, setting some papers aside. I had asked my kids to write an essay on what they would tell President Bush if they ever met him, and as usual, they’d surprised me with their insight and passion.
“Margaret,” Susanne hesitated, fiddling with her pen. “I’ve noticed that you’ve seemed preoccupied the last couple of weeks. The other teachers have commented on it as well. You’re more forgetful, and you’ve been late to two meetings. That’s not like you. Is there something you want to tell me?”
Caught, I didn’t know what to say. I still hadn’t figured out a cover story for my impending pregnancy as I didn’t want to use the ‘one-night stand’ tale with my coworkers. However, I couldn’t say that I had a partner, either, because they knew better than that. I supposed I could say it was Gary’s, but even pretending that lech was the father upset my stomach. Come to think of it, I couldn’t even say I was pregnant because I wouldn’t know yet if it were a normal pregnancy. Damn. Could I get away with family issues? Maybe. Or generic dating issues? I hated lying, mostly because I wasn’t very good at it.
“Susanne, it’s not something I feel comfortable discussing at work,” I said carefully, not wanting to offend my boss. “However, I sincerely apologize that my personal problems have spilled over into my work performance. I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“It’s your fault for being so superlative the rest of the time,” Susanne smiled, standing up. “If it were anybody else, I wouldn’t even have noticed. I’m here if you need to talk to me.” I nodded as she left, dropping my smile the minute she was out the door. I knew I’d have to be more careful, and I knew I’d have to come up with something soon.
My college friends couldn’t understand how I could be a teacher, for at-risk youth, no less, when I didn’t want children. It’s a common misconception that all women who didn’t want kids didn’t like them or weren’t good with them. Not true. I liked kids a great deal, and they liked me in return because I treated them like adults—no matter the age. I didn’t pat little kids on the head or talk down to them, nor did I lord my authority over my students. That didn’t mean I didn’t set boundaries because I did. I just didn’t automatically assume I was better because I was older as so many adults did. So why didn’t I want to have children? There were many reasons, but the number one reason was because I didn’t want them. Period. I didn’t see why that wasn’t enough of an answer, but most people needed something more.
While I was in my first serious relationship at age eighteen, I came upon the realization that I didn’t want children. Not only that, I realized that I didn’t have to have them. There was no law saying to a woman, ‘Thou shalt bear children’ except for the social stricture, but I was adept at ignoring those. People had varying reactions to my statement of not wanting children ranging from condescension—‘oh, you’ll change your mind later’—to anger—‘you must think I’m an idiot for wanting them’. Most of all, however, people just didn’t understand how a woman could be so sure she didn’t want children. I’d been ask time and time again how did I know I didn’t want children. I was always tempted to ask how they knew they wanted them, but I never stooped to their level.
It unnerved people to meet a woman who had no doubts in her mind that she didn’t want children. If I didn’t want them, I should at least feel guilty because I didn’t want them. It never seemed like an issue to me, but others wanted to make it so. They kept insisting that I’d change my mind when I got older. Well, I haven’t changed my mind yet, and I highly doubt I’ll change my mind any time soon. That’s why being chosen as the Mother of God struck me as a cruel joke. I was probably the woman on earth most certain about not wanting to have children, and here I was being forced against my will to have one. Where was the justice in that? If there was any, I didn’t see it. As for working with at-risk youth in particular, they were the best thing about the job.
I shook off my thoughts and returned to my students’ essays, but I couldn’t concentrate. Increasingly these days, all I could think about was being pregnant with the Daughter of God and what the fuck I was going to do about it. What was I going to tell people, and did I have to lie to everybody other than Ned and Wind? I couldn’t think of a plausible explanation other than the one-night stand which wouldn’t go over well at work. Perhaps I could just say I got pregnant but that I didn’t want to discuss the details. No, that wouldn’t work, especially not with my mother. She would pester me until I cracked, blurting out the entire truth. Then she would whip my ass for not telling her in the first place or if she thought I was being impertinent. I exaggerated. She hasn’t spanked me in many years, but I had a hunch this could drive her to return to the practice. The Grandmother of God. On the other hand, she just might get a kick out of that. It would bring a certain cache, if anybody believed her, of course. Just think what the good pastor could do with that knowledge!
Hey, maybe I could become a tourist attraction. I mean, think of all the people who pilgrimage to see rocks vaguely in the shape of the Virgin Mary—if you squint. Surely, a living, breathing Mother of God would be even better. Of course with the advent of the internet, the news of my existence would spread far and wide. I would be on CNN, TMZ, and all those other trashy news shows if I so chose. I would insist on Connie Chung interviewing me, however, as a solidarity thing. On second thought, no, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t stand the woman—even if she was Asian. It’s sad she’s still the only prominent Asian American newscaster. The trouble was that I didn’t like any reporters. No, it would be better to ‘no comment’ them to death. I knew that Ned and Wind would never give me up to the tabloids, so I could cause a feeding frenzy if I so chose.
On the other, less-pleasant hand, I would also have to deal with death threats, of that I was sure. Why? Because there was always a fundamental faction of any religion who refused to believe in a Messiah who didn’t correlate with its own preconceived notion of what said Messiah should be. In this case, I couldn’t think of a single religion which wouldn’t flip out at the thought that the next savior was a Taiwanese American girl, daughter of a bisexual woman who had sex—frequently—outside of marriage. And no children of her own. Oh, yeah. That was going to go over really well with mainstream America, I could just see it now. I didn’t have to worry about dying, but the threats would put a damper on my day. It’s a good thing I didn’t spend much time online!
I understood at least one reason God didn’t want me to spread the news. He didn’t want the frenzy to occur until He was ready for it. Or rather, until He had time to implement His divine plan. If I let it be known now that I was carrying the next savior, well, all hell would break loose. I considered it for a moment, just to throw God off His stride. Then again, He already knew what I was planning on doing, if the Bible was to be believed. So it was useless for me to try to shake His sangfroid. He must be the master of the Machiavellian technique if He was willing to risk me blabbing my mouth about this whole ordeal.
Then again, maybe that’s what He wanted me to do. Maybe part of His master plan included me telling the whole world about my condition. I still had my doubts whether I was actually carrying His child, however. Until I started showing, I didn’t want to do or say anything that would make me look like an ass if it turned out not to be true. I could just imagine how I’d feel if I inform the entire planet that I was the Mother of God, only to have said God laugh maniacally in my face and say, ‘April Fools!’ I didn’t think He’d do that as I couldn’t imagine the point of crushing me like that, but let’s face it—I didn’t know Him well enough to predict what He’d do for His own amusement. Or for Zeke’s. What I did remember from Sunday School about the Almighty, I didn’t much like. With a start, I realized that my prep period was over. So much for grading papers.
I stared at my cell phone as if it were a living entity. It was Monday night, and I was preparing to call Ted. I hadn’t wanted to seem overly eager about it so I hadn’t call him last night, but I felt it was time. I didn’t believe in the three-day waiting period as I tended to go for what I wanted whenever I wanted. This time, however, I felt oddly unsure whether to call Ted or not. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go out with him; things were rather complicated at the minute. There was no way I was telling him about being impregnated by the Father of us all, but I couldn’t put it off forever, either. If he and I had any sort of relationship—and I had a feeling we would—well, I’d have to tell him something. Suddenly, I was pissed off at God again after a brief respite from intense rage. I waited for it to die down before calling Ted. Fortunately, he answered on the second ring, or I might have passed out waiting for him to pick up.
“Hello?” Just hearing his voice caused me to shiver. I didn’t want to act like a teenage girl going on her first date, but I seemed to be reduced to that at this moment.
“Um, Ted, this is Margaret. I was Ned’s pseudo-bride, and you met me at his parents’ house. I thought I’d give you a call. How are you?” I cursed myself for sounding stupid, but I was never very good at small talk.
“Not bad,” Ted said. It sounded as if he was smiling, which was a good sign. “I just got home from work. Long day. Hey, you’re the talk of the Taiwanese community, I hope you know. You’re quite the hussy, aren’t you?”
“Oh, yes,” I said, a trifle grimly. I still couldn’t forget the sight of Ned and his father wrestling over my honor. Sort of. “I am just a trollop who doesn’t know how good she has it. I mean, Ned is the catch of the community—present company excepted, of course.” I paused, an idea hitting me. “Ted, do you think you could give Ned a call? He’s feeling pretty low about his parents freaking out on him. He might feel better if you talked to him. Lord knows, I’ve tried.”
“Will do,” Ted said smartly. “I’ll take him out on the town, get him drunk and laid, and he should feel better in the morning.” I laughed, feeling strange as I did. That wasn’t the comment of a boy who’d been raised in the traditional Taiwanese ways. I’d never dated a Taiwanese boy before because they tended to be chauvinistic and old-fashioned. I knew Ted wasn’t like that, but I wasn’t used to one being so down-to-earth. Except for Ned, of course, but he didn’t really count.
“Speaking of feeling better,” I said casually, though my heart was pounding uncomfortably fast. “I’d feel better if you agreed to go out with me this weekend. What do you think?”
“I’d like that,” Ted said. “I think you and I should go out before I take Ned out trolling so I can be alert enough to enjoy my date with you.” I agreed that was a good idea. It turned out that he liked Hong Kong action flicks as much as I did. We decided we’d have a late dinner at Village Wok before going to check out Wing Chung, one of my favorite movies, at the Riverview Friday night. It wasn’t strictly Hong Kong, but it’d do. It would be a late night, but neither of us had to work the next morning, so that was fine.
“What would parents say if they knew you were dating me, the wench who broke Ned’s heart?” I joked, feeling as if I’d known Ted forever. I felt more comfortable with Ted after perhaps a half hour total time talking to him than I had in my five-year relationship with Gary. Sad, but true. Then again, I wasn’t an eighteen-year old blond with silicone tits.
“They would be furious,” Ted said cheerfully. “They won’t even mention you by name. You’re that girl. You’re becoming a legend.”
“So does that make you a star by proxy?” I asked. I flopped onto my couch, ready to relax after a long day myself. Ted and I traded ripostes for a few minutes before establishing a time to meet Friday night—nine, at the Wok. I gave him my numbers in case anything came up and he had to cancel. The minute I hung up, I speed-dialed Ned who sounded down in the dumps.
“Hello?” He asked, his voice dull. “What do you want, Margaret?” I could tell that he’d been sulking since I last saw him. I hoped his role as Angel was boosting his morale somewhat. “Oops, hold on a second.” Before I could say anything, he was gone. He came back, sounding marginally more alive. “It’s Ted. I’ll call you back.” He clicked off before I could comment. I stared at my phone in bemusement. Ted was a fast worker, I gave him that much. I didn’t expect him to hop on my suggestion right away, but apparently he was a man of his world. I willed him to make his conversation with Ned short because I needed to talk to Ned about, well, about him. Ted, I meant. I wished one of them would change his name or use the formal version because I had a hunch I was going to get sick of Ted and Ned pretty damn quickly.
I got off the couch to scrounge up some food. I hadn’t eaten dinner yet because I had eaten a late lunch. It was eight-thirty at night, four hours before I was going to bed, but I had to eat. I had gone to Cub yesterday, so my fridge should be pretty well stocked. I had a sudden craving for scrambled eggs with cheese, so I made myself some. I wondered if I would have the usual pregnant woman cravings and what else would happen during this pregnancy. I mean, would I even notice besides the growing of my stomach? Or would it be as if I were the same person with a basketball in my belly? I could tolerate the situation if I didn’t have to change my lifestyle drastically. Somehow, though, I had a feeling that I would be getting pretty much the full-pregnancy experience.
Once again, I cursed God under my breath. Ridiculous, I knew, because He could hear me no matter how quiet I was, but it made me feel better. I remembered the days when I felt as if I had some privacy in my own home. Now, it was like Grand Central Station what with God and His various angels dropping in on me whenever they liked. And why hadn’t any of the angels been women? Would that be too much to ask? Were there even any female angels? I wouldn’t know as I hadn’t seen one. Yes, I was disgruntled, but who wouldn’t be at being forced to play host to a heavenly array of folks? Not to mention, the devil himself. Who was infinitely more attractive than God. Blasphemy! I waited for lightning to strike. Instead, my cell phone rang, nearly causing me to jump out of my skin. I grabbed it before it could ring again.
“Yeah?” I knew it was Ned, so there was no reason for formalities.
“Guess who just called me?” Ned asked, his voice lighter than it had been five minutes before. “Ted! We’re hitting the town on Saturday night. Jealous?”
“No, since I get him first, Friday night,” I joked. It turned out that Ned and Ted had talked about me so of course, I needed to know everything they had said.
At first, Ned played coy. He tried to get me to pay him for the information, but I calmly reminded him of all the times I had his back. When reminded of the recent tussle with his father, Ned acquiesced, albeit rudely. Ted had asked what I did, what I liked to do, etc. Ned had told him the truth—teacher at an alternative high school, shots of rum and basketball—in that order. Like a true friend, Ned highlighted my assets while glossing over my deficiencies. When Ned made it excruciatingly clear that I wasn’t at all enamored of Ned except for as a fashionista, well, Ted brightened considerably. It seemed that Ted had just gotten out of a long-term relationship himself, with a girl named Lucinda Hsu. She was the daughter of one of the couples at the Changs’ Saturday night and perfect wedding material. Read, breeding plus higher education plus a healthy income from Mommy and Daddy. Unfortunately, all that good fortune didn’t guarantee a stellar personality or character to go with it. Lucinda had a proclivity for married men that got her in trouble time and time again. The final straw for Ted was when she made a play for Ted’s best—and very happily married—friend. Ted broke off their two-year engagement and refused to get back together, no matter how much she pleaded.
“You two have so much in common,” Ned cooed. “Both of you cheated on by your fiancés. How often does that happen? This is destiny.”
“Thanks for reminding me,” I grumbled, pulling out a bowl filled with a mysterious substance. I couldn’t fathom what it was or how long it’d been in the fridge, so I shoved it back in. I decided to order a pizza after getting off the phone with Ned as I was still hungry. I needed some grease in me because I was eating for two, you know. “I like him, Ned. Is he a good guy, or is he going to break my heart?” I felt slightly odd about asking Ned to give me the scoop on Ted, but a woman couldn’t be too careful these days.
“He’s for real,” Ned said. “If anything, you’re likely to break his heart. He’s one of those guys who’ll go the extra mile for anybody who needs his help. He’s truly a good guy.”
Ned and I chatted about Ted for a few more minutes. I was pleased that Ned’s spirits had been lifted at the invitation from Ted, and I mentally patted myself on the back for thinking of it. After ten minutes of talking, I had to get off the phone and order that damn pizza. I could practically taste the artichokes and chicken, not to mention the garlic and green olives. It would be a white pizza as I preferred not to clog my arteries too badly in one meal. I would order a large so I would have enough for a few more meals.