I took several spins around Pleasantview, having no idea what I was doing, nor what I was going to do when I got back for Ellen. Part of me really wanted to approach the topic; another part wanted to clamp my mouth shut and never say a word about it.
I can't pretend to you I'd never been attracted to Ellen. But I also realized it would never work between us, and I was never all that interested. Mostly for this reason: Ellen wanted a career. I wanted a wife and kids. I could never see myself with a woman who didn't want a family. I think Ellen has made it completely clear she wasn't. Plus…she and I were on different ends of the personality spectrum. True to her name, Ellen could be a bit…icy.
Which did not explain her sudden change in character. Why would she do that out of absolutely nowhere?
My head was spinning. This made no sense.
Let's suppose I asked her. What would I tell her? I'm interested? Or that I'm not? Would that affect the baby? Forget the baby for a second, how will that affect Chaz and me? They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Ellen was already difficult to live with. Did I want to make her worse?
Let's say I didn't. … Yeah, leaving it alone seemed like the better idea in the long run, at least as far as living. But then let's say she brought it up. Then we have the above scenario to play out again. Or if she didn't. Maybe she thinks she saw something in me that invited her in and was waiting for me to make the next move. Then if I don't, she might start steadily becoming more impatient. She'll think I'm rejecting her. And then all hell could break loose, because knowing her, she'll keep it in long as she can and then let the dam burst. And then all of us are screwed.
She came out an hour later. I didn't look at her. She gave me a weird look that was apparently supposed to come across as "playfully annoyed" as she said "Not going to open it?" with a laugh. I smiled dryly, and found myself unable, so it was a kind of smirk. Maybe a grimace. Doesn't matter. I just wanted to get alone again.
"Like?" I asked her.
"Anything. How's town? What did you see? Pick out anything you like? Peg the house you want, or do you think you'll be better elsewhere?"
Was she inviting this? "Obviously, there's something on your mind and I don't like it there." Yep, she was.
"Ab…about earlier…" I started. No, I didn't like that. How about: "That is, have you…?" Didn't like that either. Let's try this: "El, why did you decide to keep it? The baby."
She stayed quiet; I assumed she was thinking. "Well, for one, I was already past the deadline. Believe me, I asked. I told you I wanted it, and was actually going to go through with it. But," she said, laughing dangerously under her breath, "you threw me, Fin. You and your questioning and demands threw me off something fierce, and by the time I was back on the track, it was too late and none of them would perform it."
I think she was blaming me.
"Yeah, and how long did that take? For you to make the decision again?"
"Near two weeks."
"Ellen," I said, "there has to be another reason. How long had you known before we did?"
"I missed two. So, since late February."
"You told us in March. Why did you wait to tell us before you went through with it?"
She went quiet. I reached the interstate before she spoke again. "I figured the father should know."
Maybe I was right the first time. "Are you…don't bite my head off, Ellen, but…are you…you know…in love with him?"
Another few seconds passed. "Let me ask you something, Phineaus. Chazwick is the most irresponsible, disgusting, lazy pig I have ever had the misfortune to meet. He's always drunk. He won't get anywhere in life. I'm surprised – nay, shocked – he made it through as much college as he has. All that in consideration, Phineaus, would you want to admit to anyone you'd fallen in love with that?"
"You haven't answered my question, Ellen."
Out of the corner of my eye, she folded her arms and turned her face from me. This conversation was over, but I think I had my answer. I was initially disappointed, but ultimately wound up relieved. It was Chaz, not me.
I felt my face turn red. "No reason. I just want to make sure that you and the baby are taken care of."
I nearly drove headfirst into the speed limit sign. Ellen hit me hard in the arm and jarred the wheel. I came to a halt on the side of the road, flipped on the blinkers (hoping they still worked) and let her have it.
"DO YOU HAVE A DEATH WISH, WOMAN? YOU NEARLY KILLED US BACK THERE!"
Then, taking me by the front of my shirt, she pulled my face to hers and let me have it.
"Are you suggesting, wise-guy, that just because I have a useless dependent on the way, I need someone to take care of me? That I'm going to turn into some helpless woman who can't decide right from left without a man to point me?" she snarled. I pushed her away.
"That's it? You nearly killed us both because you were offended?"
"I had a point to make and needed your attention."
"Get in the back."
"Get in the back seat of the fucking car." I was usually very patient, but the sign nearly took my head off, so I wasn't in the greatest of moods.
"See, when a girl says something like 'pardon?' or 'excuse me?', she wants you to fix what you said, not repeat yourself. You'll do well to learn that, Fin, if you ever want a girlfriend."
"See, when I tell you to get in the back seat of the goddamn car, I want you to do it and not throw your feminist bullshit in my face. You'll do best to remember that, Ellen, if you don't intend on giving birth in that spot."
"I'm not due for two months, wise-guy."
We sat there for another two hours on the side of the road, until highway patrol made us leave. We didn't speak the rest of the ride, until I parked the beater in the garage and unlocked the front door.
"And," I said as she went to go in, blocking her off. "I suggest you start being real nice to Chazwick, Ellen. If you expect a ride anywhere, it'll be through him."
I admit, I was a complete jerkass to her that night. I just didn't appreciate an attempt on my life for something as innocent as suggesting a man take care of his woman and child. I wasn't suggesting he did all the work and breadwinning, while she stay home barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. I just had the balls to suggest a man help her raise her baby.
Wait. I forgot. That's a nonissue. Because she won't be raising her baby. I get to raise her baby.
"Put it down, we need to talk," I said as Chaz took his beers out of the case.
"What?" he snapped, ignoring it.
"Tell me what's going on between you and Ellen." I had no interest in bush-beating. He raised an eyebrow.
"You want her?"
"Please," I said, almost with a sneer. I had no interest in that woman at the time, and was still not pleased with how the previous night went down.
"Then take her." Somehow the intent didn't get across.
"I left her specifically for you."
"And I might still take her."
"What, once she gets her body back - if she gets her body back." I couldn't believe him.
"Do you remember her? She was something before."
"Chazwick, answer me plainly: what do you want in life?"
"Is your goal in life to do every cute girl you meet until you knock her up and then walk out like nothing ever happened?" No girl deserved that.
"The 'knocking up' part strays a bit from the plan."
"Wait, what?" I...I just... "When I asked you about Ellen freshman year, you said you liked her. You didn't say you wanted to tap it. You said you wanted to tap Kay, and Genesis. You never said that about Ellen. You told me you liked her."
"I just said, if you want her, Fin, have her."
"I don't want her!" I stood suddenly. I was tired of hearing the accusations from myself that I liked her. Once upon a time, perhaps; I can't deny freshman year's crush, but I certainly couldn't stand to live my life with that woman. "I might honestly take anyone but her! I left her for you! You told me you liked her, and I'm willing to bet you told her the same thing. And you got in, and spun pretty words and guess what, she believed you. That woman is in love with you, Chazwick, and you're planning on just abandoning her? The only reason she kept the baby as long as she did when she told us was because she was torn between her degree and your child." I drew several breaths before continuing. "She loved you, and hoped that perhaps since it was yours, you'd stay for the baby."
Chaz slammed his beer down; It exploded. "The girl isn't as smart as she thinks she is, if she thought a baby could make a man stay. It's against nature: man is supposed to spread his seed around the ladyfolk, and the ladyfolk raise the young."
"It wasn't about being smart, dipshit, I just told you she was hopeful!"
"If you care so much about her, why don't you take her?"
"Because she's batshit insane!" I finally screamed, losing my head completely. "She acts like a frosty bitch as long as I've known her, and the second she gets laid, she becomes a completely different person!"
"It changes people," Chaz said, dumping the rest of his exploded beer down his throat.
"Not to mention her opinions and her points seem to mean more to her than her life."
"I thought you realized by now she's got a lot to say."
"Yeah, but she doesn't have to sabotage my driving. Nearly drove us off the road because I dared say something she disagreed with."
Chaz put the beer down and sighed. "She probably wouldn't be making our lives hell if you hadn't insisted."
"Oh, ok, now we're blaming all this on me?"
"It's kinda your fault."
Was he being totally serious? He's trolling, bluffing, just trying to antagonize, but he can't possibly believe that I'm to blame for this. My face went from contorted in anger and frustration to blank and numb.
"You know we can hear you down the block, right?" Both our attention turned to Ellen, burdened with two heavy bags, just having arrived from what must've been the bookstore.
"And? What did you hear?" I kind of didn't want to know.
It ran over, so I'm stopping here.