June

Chapter 4

Mar. 21, 2022
Kathy Larson

She got pregnant. They’d been married nearly five years when it happened, and it surprised them both.

Sadie could not understand how she had gotten pregnant. She took her birth control pills religiously — Stan watched her every morning at breakfast — but more confusing was the fact that they rarely had sex. When they did it was always when Stan was extremely drunk. It was a rough, sloppy and often painful ordeal that left her feeling bruised both physically and emotionally.

As a young girl Sadie had often imagined herself as a mother. She modeled herself after her own mother, who had been, despite the horror of being married to a brutal alcoholic, a kind and caring mother, devoted to making sure that Sadie was cared for and loved. Of course, in Sadie’s imagination, the father of her child was nothing at all like her father — he was a conglomeration of all the shining knights, brave princes and beautiful, yet smart heroes of the story books she read. When she’d first set eyes on Stan she believed that she’d found the very embodiment of all her girl-hood fantasies.

When her doctor told her she was pregnant she broke down and cried. She had fled the doctor’s office in a panic, unable to explain why she had to leave so suddenly. She had taken the bus to the clinic, but chose to walk the 45 minutes it would take her to get home. Along the way she stumbled into a park and sat crying into the bunched folds of the sweater she’d worn to her appointment. A woman who had watched Sadie crying for nearly half an hour finally approached and asked if she was okay, was there anything she could do to help. Sadie had looked at her through swollen eyes, her face blotchy and red and said no, there was nothing anyone could do. She thanked the woman and said she’d be fine, could she please just leave? The woman smiled sadly then reached into her bag and produced a travel pack of Kleenex which she placed gently on the bench beside Sadie. That simple, kind act brought about a new avalanche of tears and Sadie had felt for a moment that she might go mad.

Eventually her tears abated, but not the sense of overwhelming sadness that had permeated every fibre of her being. How was she going to tell Stan this news? How would he react? The thought of a child growing up in their home, being loved by only one parent, having to suffer through Stan’s miserableness, his drinking, his anger and his tight-fistedness nearly brought the tears on again, but she stole a look at her watch and was shocked to see that she’d been in the park the whole afternoon. It was going on 5 o’clock. Stan would be home before her and he’d be furious that she wasn’t there. She got to her feet and hurried home.

She walked fast, but it still took her nearly half an hour to get there, and in that time she felt a seed of hope begin to grow inside. Maybe, confronted with the reality of a child, Stan would change. Maybe he would actually be happy, would be thrilled to know that he had fathered an heir. What if it was a boy? The thought made Sadie suddenly smile. A boy! Isn’t that what all men wanted? A boy child, someone to carry on their legacy, someone to share their skills and knowledge with? By the time she stepped into their driveway she was convinced that Stan would be as happy about the child as she was beginning to feel.

That fantasy lasted as long as it took her to get the words out.

He had been sitting in the faded recliner he’d picked up one day on his way home from work drinking a beer and scowling at the blank screen of the television. When she came into the room he turned and fixed her with a cold, empty look. Where the fuck you been? he said quietly. Sadie tried to erase the look of fear that must have been on her face, tried to smile, but the blackness she saw in his eyes was killing any sense of happiness she’d begun to feel. I was at the doctor’s, she said. That was this morning, he growled, and stood up out of the chair. It’s five-fucking-o’clock. Who you been seeing behind my back, while I’m killing myself at that fucking job that I fucking hate just so’s I can keep you in this fucking house? His voice had grown steadily louder and as he spoke he had walked across to her until he was towering over her, his hot breath, smelling of the corned beef sandwich he’d had for lunch and the beer he’d been drinking, blasting into her face, making her feel sick. Sadie stood her ground. Turned her head slightly to draw in a fresh breath of air, then turned to look at him with as much calmness as she could muster and told him they were going to have a child.

At first he was silent. He stared at her like he didn’t know who she was. The colour had drained from his face and he seemed to lose his balance, she thought for a moment he might actually faint. Then he had gone into the kitchen, grabbed his keys from the hook by the door and walked out without a word. He did not come back until the next night.

All through the night that he was gone Sadie sat at the kitchen table, starting each time she heard the loud engine of a half-ton cruise by out on the street. When he hadn’t returned by morning she went and lay down on the bed, not bothering to undress. Any feelings of hope or joy or happiness she’d had on her short walk home from the park were gone. In her heart she knew that Stan would never accept a child. When she thought of the unbearable unhappiness and loneliness her child would have to live with it broke her heart. She wept softly and silently until she finally fell asleep.

When he came through the door the next night he walked past her without a word. She set the table and laid out their supper. It was while he was stuffing a forkful of the shepherd’s pie she’d made into his mouth that he said, I told you I didn’t want no kids. He didn’t look at her, only reached for the beer that sat beside his plate. I know, she said quietly, it just happened. They sat in silence then, the only sound their chewing and the occasional clearing of their throats. When he was done, he looked at her and the last thing he said before pushing himself away from the table was, It probably ain’t even mine, anyway.

She cried the whole time doing the dishes, her tears splashing silently into the soapy water, and by the time she was finished she knew what she had to do.

They told her that it was a girl. Sadie named her June. Stan never knew that she carried the tiny body home or that she had buried their daughter beneath the protective, sheltering branches of the elm tree in the back corner of the yard. She placed a chair next to the spot where she buried June, and every day when Stan was at work she would sit and read aloud to her, her voice, filled with longing, filled with regret, but mostly filled with love floating softly up through the branches into the free and open sky.