“Sylvia, are you worried?” asked Jack as laid next to her and lovingly caressed Sylvia’s bubble like belly. Sylvia had received some strange news earlier in the day; the ultrasound had presented her and Jack with an unexpected issue with the unexpected birth.
“How could I not be worried? There’s something really wrong with my baby.” Sylvia brushed her long blonde hair out of her face and looked deeply into Jack’s eyes. Since he learned about the pregnancy, he had grown up quite a bit. He managed to start working full-time at the toy store rather than spending hours looking at the action figures available there. She had also noticed that he looked very tired, worried, and as though all the life had been sucked out of him. She knew he had big plans; she also knew that the baby would spoil many of those plans. He would have to put off college until she could get back to work. Even then, they had a wedding to plan before he could start working on a career.
“Our baby should be fine. There’s just a couple of bumps on his head. Nothing to freak out about. Probably just some glitch with the machine or something anyways, right?” Jack tried to calm Sylvia down, but she could not help but fret about the life within her. Jack was afraid of being a father, but he knew that Sylvia would be a great mother. He loved her because of her caring personality; he also loved her because she was a responsible while he was not. He found himself wishing that she were more responsible, for if she were, they would not have a baby right now, and if they did not have a baby, he would not have his mother calling him on the phone everyday.
“What if they are horns, Jack? What if our baby really has horns? What is that going to do to him?” Tears began to stream down Sylvia’s cheeks while Jack put his arms around her. He did so because he knew it was what he was supposed to do. He loved her and he felt that he should comfort her even if he did not want to. Everything in him longed to leave, to extract himself from the misery in which he had found himself embroiled. However, he played the part of the caring lover. He was an actor, and this role was an easy one to play. He would hold her until she finished crying and then he could get away from her.
Sylvia could not get the image out of her mind. The ultrasound showed them as clearly as chalk on a blackboard: her baby had a pair of tiny horns protruding from its forehead. The doctor had tried to calm her, saying that it could be a minor glitch with the machine. However, the latest ultrasound still showed the discreet, tiny bulges on her baby’s forehead. The doctor changed his theory from it being a glitch to the baby having a deformity. Thinking of bringing her imperfect child into the world tore away at Sylvia; she repeatedly asked God why He made her child like this and was forcing her to bring a deformed creature into such an image conscious society. She believed it was unfair that an imperfect child would be her burden.
The phone rang which disturbed Sylvia even further. She knew who it was on the line; it was Jack’s mother Bea, and Bea had a new reason to condemn their relationship. Not only were they unmarried and having a child, that child had horns, and Bea knew that, that meant the child was the Anti-Christ.
“Don’t let the machine pick-up. I don’t want to hear her voice,” said Sylvia quietly.
“Do you think I want to talk to her anymore than you want to hear her? Just let the machine pick up; she’ll leave a message and that’s it.”
“I don’t want to hear her, Jack! I’m sick of her judgments and I’m tired of her protests! It is hard enough living like this without that witch’s voice!”
The answering machine picked up while Jack gave Sylvia a disgusted look. Sliding out of the bed and walking into the kitchen space, he slowly made his way to the telephone. His mother’s voice radiated from the answering machine, spreading its malicious message throughout the tiny studio apartment.
“I know you are there! You hussy! You bringer of ruin! Johnny showed me the picture! You have lain with the Devil and you have brought damnation upon us all!” shouted the sharp and nasal voice through the speaker. Jack picked up the phone and his mother’s continuing tirade greeted him.
“Calm down mom. I know, I know.” were the only words he spoke. Sylvia listened as Jack absorbed the abuse meant for her. She would have felt good about his valiant act if it were not for the fact that he never refuted any of his mother’s points. “Yes, mom, you are right mom.” were the only words she heard coming from across the room. She watched as Jack listened to his mother and felt her anger growing within her. Sylvia knew that the conversation’s topic was Bea’s desire for the baby’s death. Sylvia knew that Bea wanted nothing more than to have Jack back under her roof and Sylvia far, far away.
When Jack finished the call, he switched off the phone and tossed himself onto a beanbag chair. Sylvia got out of bed and waddled towards Jack, taking a seat in the couch across from him. The apartment was tiny and filled with an eclectic mix furniture and decorated with Jack’s action figures. Sylvia looked at the apartment with disgust and then looked at Jack with disdain.
“Why don’t you disagree with her?” asked Sylvia.
“Why bother? I won’t be able to change her mind. You know I want to stay with you and the baby, right? I mean, I work, keep you fed, clean the house when you can’t. Do you think I don’t love you?” responded Jack with venom in his voice.
“This isn’t about love, Jack; this is about you and your mother. I don’t want you to change her mind; I want you to tell her that you want to stay with the baby and me!”
“Didn’t I just say I wanted to stay, weren’t you listening?”
“I was listening; it is you who wasn’t listening. Why won’t you tell her?” Sylvia was becoming angry with Jack and watched as he smiled softly.
“I’m sorry honey. I know I should tell her, but I just can’t. She’s old, and I’d rather be able to remain on speaking terms with her in these late years of her life. I just let her let out everything she needs to, that’s all. She doesn’t want to hear what I have to say, she just wants me to hear what she has to say.”
“Well then, maybe she needs to wake up.” said Sylvia as she stood up and waddled towards the phone. Jack watched as she took hold of the phone and began to dial.
“Who are you calling?” he asked as he stood up, grabbing for the phone. Sylvia pulled the phone from Jack’s reaching fingers and continued dialing. She would call Bea and confront her. She’d tell her what she needed to hear.
“Don’t call her, Sylvia, please. It won’t do any good. Just put the phone down. I’ll call her tomorrow, and we’ll talk. I’ll tell her everything but I guarantee that she won’t care,” begged Jack as Sylvia hesitated dialing the final digit of the number.
“And if you don’t call?” demanded Sylvia.
“I promise I will,” said Jack as Sylvia switched off the phone. He wrapped his arms around Sylvia and embraced her tightly. He knew that he loved Sylvia, but he was so unsure of the situation in which they had found themselves. Both of them were young, and neither felt prepared to be a parent. The repetitive calls did nothing to assure Jack of his choice to stay with Sylvia. As he held her in his arms, he wondered if he was doing the right thing. He knew he would not call his mother; she would call as she always did and he would tolerate her harping until she hung up the telephone.
That night, awake and sitting by the window, Jack contemplated his fate. He could run away from everything and maybe have a chance to make his dreams come true. However, he wondered if his dreams should not change. He was to have a son now, and horns or no horns, he would want to be in his son’s life. Maybe he could talk with his mother and convince her that the child was not the demon seed she believed he was. If she did not listen to reason, perhaps he would just cut her out of his life and the life of his family. It would be better to be without her than to receive those daily calls.
As he thought, the night wore on. He contemplated what he could do in order to afford the operation his son would have to go through in order to remove the horns. He resolved that he would do whatever it took to assure a good life for his son. As dawn approached, Sylvia walked to the refrigerator and saw that Jack had fallen asleep at the table. She smiled at him and felt blessed to have him in her life. She believed that while times were trying now, they would get better soon.
“Jack.” she whispered softly in his ear.
“Wha?” muttered Jack incoherently. He stood up from the table and wandered towards the bedroom.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” said Sylvia, “I was rude and you were tired.”
“Not now. Sleep.” murmured Jack as he flopped onto the bed.
The next day, Jack fulfilled his promise and called his mother. Talking for over an hour, he said the words that Sylvia long wished he would say to his mother, “I love Sylvia.”
“Love or not, that is the Devil’s baby and you know it!” yelled Bea into the receiver. She had quite enough of her boy’s ramblings and sought a swift ending to the conversation, though Jack would not let her have it.
“It isn’t the Devil’s baby, mother. It is my baby boy,” said Jack.
“How are you so sure? Horns don’t run in my family, you know.”
“Mother, do I need to tell you how the baby was conceived? I was there, you know, and I remember it quite well.”
“Even if you were there Johnny, you don’t know what that girl has been doing?” said Bea viciously.
“And how do you know what she’s been doing? I don’t see you around here often. You haven’t even come to visit since we moved over a year ago. All you do is call and nag about this or that. You have been nothing but a burden since I moved out, and I’m through!” yelled Jack as he pressed the phone’s off button, hanging up on his mother.
“Jack, are you okay?” asked Sylvia.
“I just hung up on my mother. I just hung up on her and it felt good,” said Jack with a smile. He felt free and happy; with his mother’s rants out of his life, he felt happiness for the first time since he found out about the pregnancy. “I feel like I’m starting over again,” he said with relief.
“That’s because you are. I know that this wasn’t your plan, but maybe we can make a new plan?” asked Sylvia.
“I think that a new plan is in order. First, we’ll need a name.”
“For the plan?” joked Sylvia.
“No, for the baby.” said Jack with a wide smile on his face.
“I’ve all ready thought of a name: Adrian.”
“I like it,” responded Jack, “This is my son Adrian.”